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Politique d’Israël en ce qui concerne les ressources en eau de la Rive Occidentale – CEDIPP, Étude de DDP – Publication de DDP Français
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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
1 January 1980



ISRAEL'S POLICY
ON THE WEST BANK
WATER RESOURCES


Prepared for, and under the guidance of
the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable
Rights of the Palestinian People






UNITED NATIONS
New York, 1980



TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword
Quantities of Water
Israel's Policy on the West Bank Waters: Utilization and Settlement
Israel's Policy on the West Bank Waters: Restrictions and Effects on the West Bank Economy
Table - Water Supply in the West Bank
References and Notes
i
1
3
10
17
19



FOREWORD

The human and material resources of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip occupied by Israel in June 1967 and their economic importance for it are a subject that deserves close examination.

One of these resources is water. Israel's water policy has important implications for the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and their Palestinian inhabitants.




QUANTITIES OF WATER

The renewable or fresh water in Israel before the June 1967 War, after the development of all water resources, according to Yakobowitz and Prushansky, was estimated at 1,610 to 1,650 million cubic metres yearly.

This amount may be broken down as follows:


Water in arid areas such as the West Bank is a commodity of strategic value and without adequate water resources there can be no viable economic activity. The West Bank is dependent upon rainfall for its annual water supply. In normal circumstances, the water retained in underground aquifers is estimated at 600 million cubic metres, in addition to 250 million cubic metres of surface run-off and the waters of the River Jordan. Of this total, only 620 million cubic metres is easily usable.

Because of an increase in domestic consumption as a result of Jewish immigration and natural increase and of settlement policy, Israel has been facing a fast-accelerating crisis in water economy. In Israel before the June 1967 War there were no unexploited water resources. As Arnon Magen said, "there was just no place left in pre-June Israel to drill new wells."2/

Israel's consumption of its renewable water resources increased from 17 per cent in 1948 to 95 per cent in 1978.3/ The increase of Israeli consumption of waters amounts to 15-20 million cubic metres yearly. This increase is nearly equivalent to one per cent of Israeli total proven renewable water reserves.4/


ISRAEL'S POLICY ON
THE WEST BANK WATERS:
UTILIZATION AND SETTLEMENT


Israel attaches great importance to water resources in the West Bank. According to some sources, it has given priority to its needs at the expense of the inherent rights of the Palestinian people to its waters.5/ This is because of two factors:

To control water resources in these two areas, these resources have, since June 1967, been placed under the responsibility of the Department for Water Allocation and Certification of Israeli Water Commission.6/

By drilling artesian wells within the pre-June 1967 borders, Israel has been pumping and siphoning off underground waters of the West Bank. Before 1967, Israel had been pumping away of the West Bank's total water supply some 500 million cubic metres annually by means of artesian wells drilled in Israel. This constituted approximately one-third of Israel's annual water consumption before 1967 and it constituted five-sixths of the West Bank waters.7/ This explains the considerable importance the Israeli Government attaches to control of the aquifer along the western slopes of the West Bank.8/

Any faster pumping would lower the water table below sea level, making the water highly saline and unsuitable for human use.

Since June 1967, Israel has pursued an intensive settlement policy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; within this policy many Jewish settlements, mainly agricultural, have been established.

Israel's political attitude towards the political future of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, its rejection of the establishment of a Palestinian state on them and its insistence on retaining them appear to be partially attributable to the water factor in these Palestinian territories. Water resources in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip play an important role in shaping Israel's conception of the autonomy for these territories. It would seem to be difficult for Israel to accept a political settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that would result in its relinquishing of its control over water resources in these territories.

Of relevance here is an article written by Michael Gerti and entitled "Water Salinity and the Green Line,"

Amir Shapira's article in Al Hamishmar shows the connexion between Israel's intentions concerning West Bank waters and its political stand on the West Bank,

Shapira further notes:

Under the title "One Source of Water to the Sharon and the Shomron" Amon Magen noted that,

Likewise, Yehuda Litani, Haaretz correspondent reported as follows:
Israeli policy on the West Bank waters is also revealed in an article by Abshalom Ginat entitled "And You will Draw Water to Samaria,"


ISRAEL'S POLICY ON
THE WEST BANK WATERS:
RESTRICTIONS AND EFFECTS ON
THE WEST BANK ECONOMY


According to a study prepared for, and under the guidance of, the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Israel's use of West Bank waters is a clear and gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.15/ The effects of Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank on this area's water resources and on its Arab economy have been very harmful.

Jewish settlements are quite obviously using the limited water resources of the West Bank at the expense of Arab farmers. There has been an expansion of the Israeli water control system, in order to serve the requirements of agricultural projects established by the Jewish settlements that were set up by force on West Bank land.

This system is embodied in various measures taken up by the Israeli authorities. Israel has restricted the water consumption of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in order to make a larger amount of water available for Israeli consumption. These restrictions have become a problem for citrus producers and vegetable farmers, whose crops are dependent on irrigation. As a result of these restrictions, irrigated Arab land has remained at about 8,100 hectares.16/

Professor Hisham Awartani, Chairman of the Department of Economics at al-Najah National University in Nablus wrote an insightful study of Israel's water policies in the West Bank. Using a recent study which was published by the Water Department of the Military Government of the West Bank entitled Monthly Discharge of Underground Water in Yehudah and Shamron 1977-1978, Awartani notes that the total number of artesian wells in the West Bank is 331, of which 17 have been drilled by the Israel Water Company (Mekorot) in the Ghor (Jordan Valley) to serve Israeli settlements in that area.17/

In his well-documented research, Dr. Paul Quiring notes with respect to water and water rights that since 1968, the number of wells drilled by the Israel Water Company (Mekorot) in the West Bank to meet the irrigation and domestic consumption of the Jewish settlements amounted to at least 17 besides Israeli using of four wells which existed before June 1967 and owned by "absentee" Palestinians.18/

No well is sunk by a Palestinian in the West Bank without first obtaining a permit from the representatives of the Water Commissioner at the military government offices.

The Israeli authorities, on the other hand, have been completely prohibiting Palestinian farmers from drilling of any new wells for irrigation purposes since such drilling would be carried out in the area whose aquifer Israel is exploiting through the artesian wells in Israel.19/

Dr. Quiring notes that since June 1967 only seven permits have been given to drill wells to provide domestic water consumption.20/ These permits were given in cases where denying Palestinians of these permits would have resulted in seriously impairing water supplies for domestic consumption. No existing well has been allowed to increase its pumping capacity.

Water meters have been placed by the Israeli authorities on existing Arab wells to keep a daily check in order to maintain the limitation imposed on the amount of water from the Palestinian land which they are permitted to use.21/

In some cases, wells owned by Arab farmers who were obliged, for various reasons, to live outside the West Bank since 1967, have been taken over and exploited for Israeli consumption.

Arab municipalities, for example, Ramallah, have been refused permission to drill wells unless they would also supply nearby Jewish settlements or have been forced to link up their municipal systems to the Israeli network, which gets its water supply from the ground-water of the city of Ramallah itself.22/

Dr. Quiring noted that,

Israel's water policy in the West Bank has a devastating effect on neighbouring Arab springs and wells. Israelis have been drilling wells in close proximity to springs and wells that existed before June 1967 and that the Palestinian towns and villages have relied on for crop irrigation and domestic consumption.

Dr. Quiring notes that,

H. Awartani noted that,

According to a confidential report drawn up recently by a major western embassy in Israel, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are consuming some 15 to 17 million cubic metres of water annually, and this figure will rise to an annual 52 million cubic metres when the settlements achieve their irrigation targets, which include the irrigation of tens of thousands of dunums of Palestinian lands.26/

As a result of Israeli drilling with powerful drilling equipment, 500 metres deep, and the use of powerful pumps, Palestinian wells and springs are being depleted and West Bank water is being drained off for the Israeli settlements in that area and for Israel. H. Awartani noted that, twelve Arab wells have dried up following the 1967 occupation. Many others in the Jordan Valley, mostly in the northern part, are suffering a declining water level and increasing salinity.27/

This has happened in many areas in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley area. The 2000 Palestinians living in the village of Awja, 12 kilometres north of Ariha in the arid part of the Jordan Valley, have protested to the Israeli authorities that their agricultural economy is being ruined because the Israeli wells and the water network supplying the nearby Jewish settlements have drastically depleted the village's water resources. The inhabitants of Awja say that they have not been able to get any water for irrigation and have therefore lost over 1,300 dunums of land planted with bananas and 150 dunums of land planted with citrus fruit.

The farmers living in the village complain that, because of the lack of water, they will not be able to plant cucumbers, beans and tomatoes as they used to do and will therefore have to wait for the rains.

Similar cases have occurred in other Arab villages, such as Bardala, Ain al­Baida and Kardala in the northern part of the Jordan Valley.

The Palestinians have little power to do anything but watch hundreds of their pre-1967 springs and wells gradually turn saline and then dry up while, in the vicinity, employees of Israeli water authorities use highly sophisticated water pumping and transport systems to irrigate the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Thus, Israel's exploitation of some 500 million cubic metres of water for its own purposes leaves, out of a total of 620 million cubic metres, only some 120 million cubic metres to meet the needs of the West Bank. The consumption by Israeli settlements of some 16 million cubic metres annually means that 8,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, excluding the Jerusalem area, constitute one per cent of the total population of the area but consume some 15 per cent of the local water.28/

Since the water shortage in Israel is increasing and Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank is continuing and expanding, the expropriation of West Bank water is also increasing propor­tionately.

Israel's exploitation of the West Bank waters at the expense of its Palestinian inhabitants has been generating conflict between them, on the one hand, and the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers in the West Bank, on the other. This conflict is bound to heighten as the demand for water by the settlers increases.

Dr. Quiring notes that:

TABLE
WATER SUPPLY IN THE WEST BANK

Area
Number of Wells
Quantity
(TCM)
Percent
    Ariha (Jericho)
40
3,464.5
7.3
    Aujah
11
1,077.8
2.3
    Jafetlak
29
2,656.1
5.6
    Marjna'ja
8
879.5
1.9
    Bardalah
8
1,854.8
3.9
    Wadi Pariah
23
2,767.3
5.9
    Jenin
56
3,277.8
6.9
    Tulkarm
59
10,128.8
21.4
    Qalqiliyah
70
6,798.2
14.4
    Ramallah
17
14,144.8
30.0
    Ghor (Jordan
    Valley)
10
173.4
.4
        Total
331
47,223.0
100.0

____________
Source: Annual Report of the Department of
West Bank Hydrology, 1978.






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