Last week's brouhaha in the Israeli parliament caused by European Parliament President
Martin Schulz erroneous claim, during a guest speech in The Knesset, that Palestinians living in the West Bank are allotted one-fourth of the amount of water that Israelis are allotted is a perfect example of all that is wrong in the world discussions and activism around the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. I have always said that this is a complicated nuanced situation, which is not helped by the vast amount of misinformation and incitement pouring from the Palestinian side, accepted as truth by a world eager to believe the "under dog". Water is a perfect example:
Schulz was wrong - of that there is no question - and he has accepted that believing a Palestinian youth he had met that day without checking the information was a mistake but I do not think the Palestinian youth believed he was lying and I would guess that most ordinary Palestinians believe exactly what Schulz's anonymous source had told him, but what is the truth? What are the facts? If we can't get to the reality to a situation, how are we going to be able to find real solutions?
First, lets be clear - Palestinians do not get as much water as Israelis, including those living in Judea / Samaria aka The West bank, but much of this is of their own causing as I will show below: On the positive side Israel has ensured that Palestinian water quality and quantity has improved dramatically since the area came under Israeli control in 1967, and Palestinians have far better water supplies than the vast majority of people who live in most of the regions Arab nations. Israel is supplying the PA with more than 50 m.c.m. or 25% of its total needs – which, under the Oslo Accords, is more than Israel is supposed to provide even a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final-status arrangement!
Part of the problem with Palestinian water comes from the inefficiency and corruption of the Palestinian Authority and in part from the political desire to keep the issue as a weapon to beat at Israel, regardless of the suffering it causes the Palestinian people - for example the PA has built just one sewage plant over the past 15 years, despite a $500 million international donor fund available to them to build more. There are plans for building purification plants in several major Palestinian towns such as Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, paid for by donor countries, but the Palestinians have decided that they don’t want to build in the Oslo defined Areas A and B under their control, but only in Area C (which is under full Israeli military, and administrative control). Israel has stringent regulations for these and similar projects in other parts of Israel which the Palestinians have no interest in complying with ( and wouldn't have to in areas A & B) so they have built none of these plants. Where Israel has made an effort to help with West bank sewage treatment, such as the Wadi Kana trunk sewage pipe designed collect and recycle waste water from Palestinians and Jewish communities in parts of the disputed territories, the PA has refused to cooperate and hasn't connected the 11 Palestinian towns in the area to this new sewage line, preferring to dump raw sewage in the ground causing totally unnecessary environmental issues in their territory.
So are the Palestinians really short of water as they claim? Certainly they are correct that Israel has finally got enough water for its own purposes, after its world leading desalinization plants & water recycling technology has drastically reduced Israel's dependency on the Sea of Galilee The Palestinians for their part have the large Eastern aquifer given entirely over for their use by Israel as part of the Oslo accords, which inexplicably they have barely begun to tap into and which should be producing at least another 60 m.c.m. per year. More than half the approved wells have not even been started by the PA, again despite international funding sitting waiting.
In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority does give its tacit and unsubtle approval of the illegal tapping of pipes into Israel's primary water lines, stealing a massive amount of water and connecting it directly into the PA water system. In 2012 the IDF discovered hundreds of these illegal connections to the main Mekorot pipeline. Cutting this supply line adds to the impression of Palestinians, reinforced culpably by the Palestinian Authority's propaganda machine (known derisively as Pallywood) that evil Israel is depriving ordinary Palestinians of their water, when in fact a study by Professor Haim Gvirtzman in 2012 of Hebrew University’s Hydrology Studies Program, showed that 10 million cubic meters of Israel's water is being stolen each year as a result of this Palestinian state-sanctioned theft ( which they also do not factor into their water statistics they send to international bodies and media.).
We must bear in mind that not only has Israel been meeting its international obligations under the 1995 Oslo accords, but consequently every Israeli pays far more for his or her water because Palestinians receive their water from Israel at a discount price and steal a huge amount more. On top of this PA often reneges on its commitment to pay for the water it receives legally from Israel, partly to maintain the water filled political football and partly because funds donated (or raised from taxes) to pay for water has inexplicably disappeared, presumably into private bank accounts.
The bottom line - Palestinian Authority has created a water crisis, and it sells this to the world as Israel starving the poor underdog Palestinians of water - typical of apartheid Zionism. This fits into the Pallywood narrative but at what cost? What it needs is well intentioned leaders such as Martin Schulz to call Abbas on this deception - this would take at least one myth off the table. Again - we need to be talking about the REAL issues and not these Pallywood inventions. World leaders know what is happening even if the rabid boycott haters do not. It is for them to look at the facts, and tell the PA that it just won't wash. Do this with each myth and we'll be talking genuine solutions - finally.