Water is the Palestinians’ most precious resource. Control of the water supply, land confiscation and house demolitions, as well as the violence of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and of the settlers, make it clear that Israeli policy is to coerce the Palestinians to vacate the land and to delegitimise their existence. Palestinians cannot trust the Israeli authorities or judiciary to grant them redress.
- Israel has taken sole control of the Mountain Aquifer, the West Bank’s principal water supply and is taking around 80 per cent of it to supply the illegal settlements and Israel itself.
- The IDF prohibits Palestinians from harvesting rainwater by destroying their cisterns.
- Palestinians are forbidden from drilling new wells or rehabilitating old wells without permits from the Israeli authorities. Such permits are difficult and often impossible to obtain. Even pipelines connecting wells to Palestinian towns and villages require Israeli permits.
- The IDF controls access to the roads which water tankers must use to deliver water to those Palestinian villages not connected to the water network. Many roads are closed or restricted to Palestinian traffic, causing delays or forcing the tankers to make long detours, which significantly increase the price of water.
- Palestinian families have to buy their water from the Israeli water company Mekorot which makes Palestinians pay a price 4 times higher than that charged to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
“There is no reason for Palestinians to claim that just because they sit on lands, they have the rights to that water.”
– Mr. Katz-Oz, Israel’s negotiator on water issues
- When supplies of water are low in the summer months, the Israeli water company Mekorot closes the valves which supply Palestinian towns and villages so as not to affect Israeli supplies. This often means that Israeli settlers have their swimming pools topped up and lawns watered, while Palestinians living next to them, on whose land the illegal settlements are built, do not have enough water for drinking, washing and cooking.
- The average Israeli settler now uses around 400 litres of water a day, twenty times more than many of their Palestinian neighbours have to survive on.
- The Military Orders issued by the IDF soon after it first occupied the area, which gave control of Palestinian water resources to Israel, remain in force today. (Military Orders 92 and 168 of June and November 1967, and Military Order 291 of December 1968)
- In Madama village 50km north of Jerusalem, settlers from the Yizhar colony have repeatedly vandalized the villagers’ only source of water. They have poured concrete into it, vandalized the connecting pipes and even dropped disposable diapers and other hazardous waste into the springs. The settlers routinely attack villagers trying to repair the water source.
- 90 per cent of tap water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption because it is contaminated by sea water and sewage.
- Under international law it is illegal for Israel either to expropriate the water of the Occupied Palestinian Territories for use by its own citizens or to expropriate it for use by illegal Israeli settlers.
Originally published for Liberal Democrat Conference 2010