This Friday is World Water Day and an opportune time to highlight the gross misallocation of water resources between Israel and the Palestinians. Water is one of the five permanent status issues in the Oslo Peace Accords, twenty years old this year. Accordingly, its accesss and consumption is relegated to political negotiations and beyond the purview of international law on water. As a result, the Palestinian Authority has had little basis upon which to challenge Israel’s confiscation of water for the past twenty years.
Sixty percent of one of Israel’s most significant water sources, the Western Aquifer, is located in the occupied West Bank. Israel derives eighty percent of the Acquifer’s annual yield and Palestinians receive the rest. Prime Ministers Menachim Begin, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak consider control and use of Palestinian water use as a precondition to any Palestinian state. Were it subject to international law, at most Israel would receive only fifty percent of shared water resources.
Failure to abide by these terms of reference has devastated the Palestinian economy. Consider that a little more than one-third of the irrigable land in OPT is actually irrigated, which costs the economy 110,000 jobs per year and ten percent of its annual GDP.
While the security sector remains robust, the agricultural sector has shrunk from 28.5% of the economy in 1993 to 5.8% today.