Already in the time of Abraham, water precipitated conflict and wars. The architects of the Oslo Accords understood this and unsurprisingly, the longest and most detailed chapter in the agreements is the one that deals with water. However, we are now suddenly hearing voices from the extreme left — voices that inform global anti-Semitism — that the Jews are stealing water from the Palestinians. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite and a close review of the facts will reveal an entirely different story.
In order to understand the issue of water, which has recently become the subject of much discussion, we have to go back in time to the 1990s. During those years, Israel confronted a severe drought. The resultant water shortage led to the enactment of law and ordinances, such as those that limited the watering of gardens and prohibited washing cars with hoses. The nation’s leaders tried to come up with new ideas to cope with the drought, one of which was to import water in huge tankers from water-rich Turkey.
As noted, the Oslo Accords concerned themselves with the volatile issue of water and both sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, were asked to conduct a census of their populations and to see how much drinkable groundwater was available. Despite the shortage of water at that time, Israel preferred — perhaps out of a desire to create firm foundations for the agreement in the making — to supplement the water needs of the Palestinian Authority, i.e., to fill the Palestinian glass until it overflowed.
The European Union, which looked on and observed the understandings taking shape, realized at that time that Israel had developed a technological breakthrough that enabled it to purify wastewater and desalinate sea water to the level of drinking-quality water. The EU requested that another component be introduced into the agreements, one that would require the Palestinian Authority to build a system of wastewater collection and establish wastewater treatment plants, convinced that this was the only way to prevent pollution of the groundwater.
The EU for its part transferred funds to the Palestinians for the construction of the wastewater treatment system. However, according to reports in the media, these funds never reached their destination, and instead made their way into the anonymous bank accounts of top officials or a top official of the Palestinian Authority. As a result, the groundwater in Judea and Samaria became polluted. In addition, the Palestinian Authority pumped more groundwater than was allowed, causing irreparable damage to the groundwater system.
A few months later, when they noticed that the water had become brackish, the PA decided to dig again in different places, causing yet further damage to the groundwater. It was this and other damage, on top of the constantly increasing population, that created the severe water shortage that has nothing to do with the settlers or settlements.
Israel, on the other hand, invested enormous effort and resources, as a result of which it managed to mimic nature and create water where there was none before, almost out of a rock. Israel is currently the only country in the world where, despite global warming, the desert is receding. Israel of 2016 no longer pays much attention to the amount of rain that falls since most of its water now comes from its many desalination plants scattered throughout the country.
Here is one example that illustrates the Palestinians’ reluctance to resolve the water problem: When Israel saw that the PA was not going to fulfill its commitments according to the Oslo Accords and establish wastewater treatment plants, Israel built a water reservoir in the city of Ariel designed to address the needs of both populations — Palestinians and Jews — living in the Ariel area. What happened? The water reservoir completed in 2014 stands empty and decrepit. The reason is not engineering or planning failures; nor are issues of budget standing in the way of operating the reservoir. The reason is bureaucratic obstacles and a reluctance on the part of the government to requisition the land needed to lay the water pipe that would bring water from the center of the country to the reservoir in Samaria, for the benefit of both populations.
Incidentally, a few months ago, I approached a number of Arab leaders who live near Efrat and made them a one-time offer: to connect their sewage pipes to the wastewater purification plant located in the Efrat Regional Council. They returned with a negative response: The extremists told them that “they would not allow Arab wastewater to flow next to Jewish wastewater.”
The water crisis offers further proof that the two-state solution simply doesn’t hold water. We are talking about a tiny territory with limited natural reservoirs. Only responsible management that prioritizes the benefit of both populations can safeguard life for everyone.