JERUSALEM, Dec 16 (JMCC) - A new model for resolving water problems in Israel
and the Palestinian territories was offered to a group of Israeli and Palestinian politicians by the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), an environmental organization based in Jerusalem
that works exclusively on water issues in the region.
The model is designed to foster collaboration between Israel and the Palestinian Authority
on an issue that is seen as crucial both to the peace process and the environmental future of the region.
Water resources must have shared ownership by all affected groups, a FoEME report concluded.
Unlike land, which is stable, water cannot be split between different owners. It is a fluid resource that moves along across and under political boundaries, highlights the report. “We have to think of water as a process, not as a static ‘divide the pie’ approach,” said water expert, Dr. David Brooks, who co-prepared the model with his colleague Dr. Julie Trottier.
In its life cycle, water is often used again and again and by different parties before it evaporates or joins the sea.
One water drop may be used both by a Palestinian irrigation farmer and Israeli drinking water, said Trottier. So then, she asked, “Is that water drop Israeli or Palestinian?”
“Everyone interacting with that drop determines the quality of the aquifer. So what we propose is an institutional frame work just as dynamic as that water drop.”
The idea is for water issues to be managed by a common body that is led by Israeli and Palestinian governments as well as a third party. Management rules focus on protecting the ecosystem for everyone’s benefit and allocate the resources accordingly.
“We want to de-securitize and de-nationalize water issues,” Brooks said. He believes the focus needs to move away from politics because water is a human right that should not be politicized.
Implementation of the proposal should happen at a political and a grass roots level, FoEME Israel Director Gidon Bromberg said.
The proposal took more than two years to devise and has been “presented to the heads of the Palestinian and Israeli water authorities,” Bromberg said. “We are not trying to replace the governments’ peace negotiations. We are trying to raise the bar and encourage people to think outside the box.”
At a grass roots level, FoEME is working in 29 Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian communities. “We are working literally across the border, encouraging communities to share water,” Bromberg added.
THE OSLO RUT
In 1995, the Oslo accord
created the Water Management Authority and the Joint Water committee designed to allocate the scarce water resources to Israeli and Palestinians.
But the results have been unsuccessful. The PLO's Negotiation Affairs Department states that majority control by Israeli authorities meant that Palestinians have access to 12 million cubic meters of water out of the 70 to 80 million that was supposed to be part of the interim agreement.
Israel has not made a concerted effort to improve the situation, according to Fouad Bateh, an advisor to the Palestinian Minister of Water. Current strategies are “sound bites without a comprehensive approach for resolving the conflict and a lack of clear understanding of the stipulations of international law,” he said.
Memner Yoel Hasson is head of the Water Security lobby for the Kadima
Party, who attended the conference, iterated that the Israeli government was committed to the FoEME initiative.
“We have to create reality where we manage water together and wisely so,” he said. “Israel has developed great resource of knowledge on how to produce and save water. We are willing and indeed must share it with others.”
Overall, Israel and the Palestinians have yet to achieve an agreement concerning water distribution. Bateh warned that the scarcity of water resources in the region is such that, without a concerted effort to deal with the situation now, the result will be “thousands of water refugees, and dispossessed persons.”