Water is the most precious resource of the world. It is also the scarcest. Especially water suitable for human consumption is not evenly distributed around the world and a lot of communities face severe shortfalls. Some of these shortfalls are experienced by inhabitants of those regions simply due to natural distribution but others are purely due to mismanagement and regional conflicts. The Israel-Palestine conflict has occasionally involved water resources of the area. In fact, some quarters believe water could be the key to settling the Israel-Palestine dispute for good measure.
Israeli settlers and authorities have time and again created unwarranted water crisis in the area for Palestinians which can easily be avoided and water resources can be shared by settlers and Palestinians if properly managed. On Thursday, officials of Israel’s civil administration arrived in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tubas with bulldozers accompanied by Israeli soldiers to destroy water pipelines providing water to the village of Bardala. This has left around 3,500 village dwellers without water. This hasn’t been a new occurrence. Earlier this year, Israeli forces destroyed a water pipeline running between the Bedouin communities of Al-Hadidiya and Al-Ras Al-Ahmar in the northern Jordan Valley, east of the Tubas district.
Palestinian officials who monitor settlement activity in the Jordan Valley stated that Israeli forces claimed and are wrongly accusing residents in the village of stealing water through the lines in order to use the water for agriculture and farming. The officials said Israel does not provide enough water for Palestinians because the Government wants to rid the land of Palestinians.
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The Oslo accords created a Joint Water Management Committee, which grants Israel a veto over water resource and infrastructure in the West Bank. The committee issued a joint declaration in 2001 for keeping water infrastructure out of the cycle of violence. The Emergency Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene group (EWASH), a multinational consortium of NGOs funded by the European commission, accuses Israel of breaking this declaration.
The Palestinian Water Authority has been constantly condemning the demolition of cisterns as a violation of numerous bilateral agreements and declarations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Amnesty International estimates that up to 200,000 Palestinians in the West Bank do not have access to running water.
Earlier this year, Israeli forces destroyed a UNICEF-funded water pipeline in the West Bank.
“We should be using water as a tool for peace and to bridge the gap of confidence in the region – not to create a water crisis,” stated Nader Al-Khateeb, the Palestinian director of the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME).
The water battle with Israel can be dated back to 1982, as most villagers in the area believe, when Ariel Sharon, the then minister of defense, transferred all the West Bank water systems to Mekorot, the Israeli national water company for the nominal price of one shekel.
Israel, on the other hand, denies there is any water crisis and officials turn a blind eye to the destruction of water resources of the Palestinians by the Israeli soldiers and settlers alike. Settlers go as far as poisoning Palestinian wells with chicken carcasses when they are unable to do any other damage. Israeli officials state they are doing enough for providing water and that the Arabs in the area should make the most of the water infrastructure developments Israeli authorities are doing in the area.