The average Palestinian uses about 60 litres (15 gallons) of water a day. In comparison, the average Israeli uses about 900 litres (250 gallons) a day, same as the average US citizen. According to Israeli law, Israelis can dig wells 70 meters deeper than Palestinians are allowed to, even in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
At the World Water Forum held this week in Mexico, Israeli representatives defended their illegal seizure of Palestinian water resources, and used ‘security’ as their excuse for detroying hundreds of Palestinian water wells over the last three years, and annexing many more by constructing the Annexation Wall deep within Palestinian land.
In addition to the problems associated with the wall, Israel is responsible for numerous other environmental impacts on Palestine. Israeli settlements annually discharge 224,000 tons of waste into Palestine, often polluting villages, streams and farms. Drinking water is contaminated by broken, but unrepaired, pipelines and sewage. More than 250,000 olive and other fruit trees have been destroyed in the last two years. This is all in addition to the environmental destruction that wars and their associated industries bring — including poisoning from the use of depleted uranium shells to land and property laid waste by fire, bombings and the machines of war.
Under 1995 peace accords signed by the Israeli government and the
Palestinian Authority, the two must share water from the River Jordan and its underground sources and must not hinder the other side’s efforts to build infrastructure.
Israel Water Authority head Shimon Tal called the accord "pragmatic" because the regional water shortage is "severe". The official described how a joint committee regularly meets and how the two sides maintain their equipment, even when it can also help the other side. "Even with the fighting during the Intifada we remained committed not to harm, not to damage the infrastructure, for the two parties understand that water is life," Tal told a debate at the international forum. He added that it is "up to the Palestinians to develop new sources", discounting the fact that Israelis use ten times the amount of water as Palestinians, and Israeli overuse is quickly depleting the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan, the two main water sources for the Palestinian West Bank.
Although the Israeli government maintains that their troops do not target water resources, human rights groups have documented hundreds of violations of the water agreement, including Israeli troops puncturing water tanks of Palestinian homes, villages and municipalities.
Fadel Kawash, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, said to the Forum, "In the Middle East, water is a political issue," he said. "Ten years have passed since the accords, but they have still not been fully implemented", he told the debate.
"Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, checkpoints, the confiscation of land, arrests, the demolition of homes and the wall: all this presents a major obstacle to development projects especially in the water sector," he said.
The Palestinian Authority is having to buy water for its growing population, he said. But at the same time, Israel is pumping increasing amounts of water from the underground sources that supply the Palestinian towns of Jenin, Jericho and Qalqilia, as well as in other areas of the West Bank, where 450,000 Israelis live illegally on Palestinian land.
Human rights groups have documented numerous cases where Israeli settlements built on hilltops have taken control of the water wells in the area and periodically cut the supply for the surrounding Palestinian population. On several occasions, particularly in the summertime, the human rights groups have documented Israeli settlers, with the help of the Israeli military, cutting the Palestinian water supply for days on end in order to keep the multiple swimming pools and fountains in the settlements supplied with water.
One example of Israeli water source destruction is the military order given this week to Mu’ayad Abed al Ra’oof Hreash by Israeli forces announcing the planned demolition of the agricultural water reservoir that allows him to cultivate his land. Mu’ayad Hreash’s land is located in the North West part of Bardala in the northern Jordan Valley. Israeli forces built the Apartheid Wall only 200 meters from the reservoir that, with a capacity of 300 cubic meters, irrigated thirty dunums of cultivated land and a series of green houses.