Israeli Pillage of Palestinian Water Resources
Brief Study on Israeli theft of Palestinian Water
the middle of the night, Abdel-Nasser Murrar, apalestinian citizen from the
village of Beit-Duqqo, northwest of Jerusalem, rode his tractor and headed
towards a spring far from the village, to fill his container with drink water,
because of the lack of water network in the village. His family waited him all
night, but he did not come back, because his tractor fell in the valley and he
was killed. Many Palestinian have faced the same fate on that road, the reason
was the roughness of the road, and the lack of electrecty.even Palestinians who
live in the cities with water networks are not so luckier, simply because
Israeli are not supplying it with water.
happen to Palestinians, while the Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian
territories enjoy abundance of water, enough to water their lawns and wash their
cars daily. Not only this, but they have extra water enough
to sell to Palestinians.
Rainfall: Rainwater is the major source of water for Gaza and the West
Bank. 96% of un-irrigated agriculture in the Palestinian territories depend on
rainwater. Approximately, the annual average of rainfall in the West Bank is 700
million cubic meters of which 500 are absorbed by the soil. While in Gaza, the
annual average is 400 million cubic meters most of it is absorbed and the rest
The Jordan river is the only source of surface water that runs through the West
Bank, in addition to seasonal valleys, and is extensively exploited by Israel1.
There are three major aquifers underneath the West Bank, Eastern, NorthEastern
and Western aquifers. All three are estimated to contain 820-900 million cubic
meters of fresh water. The Eastern aquifer is considered the richest. There are
also 314 springs in the West Bank which provide 100 million cubic meters.
are the major source for the Gaza Strip. It provides 80 million cubic meters of
fresh water. Israeli settlers in Gaza utilize 20 million cubic meters where they
use 75-80% in agriculture. The remainder is used for domestic purposes. Table
(1)2 shows that rainwater is the major source that feeds the Gaza aquifers. But,
because of Israeli policies, which usurp Palestinian water, wells in the Gaza
Strip are drying up quickly. Table (2)3 shows water distribution and sources in
the West Bank. Before 1967, there were over 720 wells. Currently, only 314 are
still active producing 38 million cubic meters annually. Israeli settlers in the
West Bank have dug 27 wells drawing about 40% of West Bank water.
the Gaza Strip there was 2039 wells of which 82 have dried up.
Settlers have dug over 50 wells, which draws about 30% of the Gaza aquifers.
Annually, Israel sells 5 million cubic meters to Palestinians in Gaza.
are 314 wells in the West Bank that produce 38 million cubic meters for
Palestinian consumption. On the other hand, there are 27 wells in Israeli
settlements, which produce 14 million cubic meters for Israeli settlers. This
means that 5% of the wells draw over 30% of water for Israeli settlers.
The amount of water in the West Bank aquifers and the Jordan Valley basin is estimated at 1 billion cubic meters. Palestinians get approximately 110-120 million cubic meters. Israel draws the remaining water through networks across the Green Line for Israeli consumption. Palestinians get about 20 million cubic meters annually from the 380 million cubic meters produced by the Western aquifer, and 30 million cubic meters from NorthEastern aquifer, which produces 140 million. Their share is 30 million from the Eastern aquifer, which produces 172 million cubic meters. These amounts are subject to Israeli whims. In Gaza, Palestinian share of water is 115 million cubic meters from all sources.
ensure unrestricted dominance over water resources Israel entrusted its military
administration in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with the overseeing of
water affairs. The military administration concealed its policies and practices
with total secrecy. Despite the lack of accurate data on water resources in the
Palestinian Territories several reports have confirmed the legitimate
Palestinian claims about Israeli pillage of their water resources. Israeli Water
Commission and the military administration of the territories dug 500 wells
along the Green Line separating the West Bank from Israel and along the
Gaza-Israel northern borders. The wells are operated 18 hours daily drawing
enormous amount of water from the Western and North-Eastern aquifers. Water then
is transferred to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
and to Israel proper.
Israel connected the two aquifers, through its principal network, with Lake
Teberias and transferred water from the Jordan valley to the Negev
desert. Through connecting the Palestinian water network with that of Israel’s
main network, Israeli authorities have total control of water supplied to the
Palestinians. Furthermore, Israeli authorities have wrecked existing Palestinian
networks in the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron and
diverted most of the water allocated to these cities to Israeli settlements in
the area. Accordingly, Israel is in control of 81% of all water resources.
Therefore, Israel has usurped over 26.4 billion cubic meters of Palestinian
waters since it occupied the West Bank in 1967. The estimated value of the
stolen water is 621 million US dollars.
the occupation of Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel drew about 18.56 billion cubic
meters of Palestinian water with an estimated value of 409 million US dollars.
In total, Israel pilfers about 1460 million cubic meters of water annually, with
an estimated value of 1.04 billion US dollars.4
Israeli journalist wrote: “
Since the June War of 1967, Israel has total control over Palestinian water
resources. Israeli governments have prohibited the digging of wells and
restricted irrigation to its pre-1967 levels, thus, keeping Palestinian crops
dependent on rainwater. The fact is we can not accuse the settlers, for all
Israeli governments from that of Levi Ashqol in 1967 to that of Yitzhaq Rabin in
1992, have adopted policies of devastation designed to dry-up Palestinian cities
Israel has begun to divert water from the Jordan River basin to a
man-made lake about 1.5 kilometers from the Jordan Valley near Jiftlik,
north of Jericho. This man-made lake has a capacity to hold 4
million cubic meters of water. In 1995 Israel constructed a dam on 307 dunums of
land near the lake. Water to feed the lake will be drawn from the Eastern
aquifer and will be provided to Israeli settlers. Therefore, Israel can easily
steal water from the Western and North-Eastern aquifers through linking them to
its national water-main, while water, drawn from the Eastern aquifer, is
collected in man-made lakes in the Jordan Valley.
did not honor its obligations under the Water Agreement it signed in Taba,
between Palestinian side and Israeli side, on 28 September 1995. Article (4) of
the Taba Agreement obligate Israel to transfer all authorities and
special responsibilities related to water, 13 wells and stations that were under
the administration of the military government, and sewage to the Palestinians.
Till now Israel refuses to honor its obligations.
Article (6) provided that Israel must increase water supplied to the
Palestinians by 80 million cubic meters by the end of 1998. Both parties agreed
that Israel is to immediately provide 28.6 million cubic meters of drinking
water to the Palestinians because of the dry season at the time. Israel only
pumped 2.5 million cubic meters and refused to pump the rest.6 At the same time
Mekorot was digging new wells and building new networks to provide settlers with
unrestrained amounts of water without prior consultations in the
Israeli-Palestinian Joint Committee as specified in the Agreement. The Israeli
side adamantly refuses to grant the Palestinian Water Commission any permits to
dig new wells. Israel issued only four permits since the signing of the
agreement after one year of unnecessary delays.
Article (11) of the Taba Agreement specifies that both parties will, jointly,
determine the selling price of water. The Israeli side, who has total control
over water resources, unilaterally sets the price without consulting the
Palestinian counterpart. Also, the Taba Agreement obligates Israel to provide
the Palestinian side with all data pertinent to the Palestinian aquifers and
basins. Israel refuses to honor this obligation claiming that any information on
water resources is an Israeli concern. The water issue was postponed to the
final status negotiations because of Israeli claims of sovereignty.
strategies aimed to negate the very presence of the Palestinian people. Major
Israeli designs intended to coerce the Palestinians to vacate the land.
Practices, such as land confiscation, house demolition and even killings,
enabled Israel tighter control over Palestinian land including water its most
after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, Israeli military
authorities issued several Military Orders (MO) to ensure tight control
over water resources. On 17 June 1967, Military Order 92 was issued. It covered
a-All water resources in Gaza and the West Bank are considered government property;
permits for artesian wells are cancelled;
information or data regarding water resources is strictly classified7.
15 August 1967, another Military Order was issued placing all authority over
water matters, exclusively, in the hands of a military officer. Military Order
1015 issued on 27 July 1982 and was amended by Military Order 1039 on 5 December
1982 determined the nature and quantity of crops Palestinians may plant,
especially, in irrigated parts. It also demanded that Palestinian farmers reduce
their crops to lessen water consumption8 . Similarly, in the Gaza Strip, two
Military Orders were issued declaring water resources governmental and ordering
Palestinians to seek permission from the military governor for any project
Military Orders enabled Israeli occupation authorities absolute control over
Palestinian water resources. These authorities have often refused to grant any
permission to dig artesian wells or to build any water networks. Dr. Paul
Korch wrote in Middle Right: “Since
the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel the military authorities
did not grant a permit to a single village to dig any wells. Between 1967 and
1983 only seven wells were allowed and those were for domestic consumption”.
Additionally, Israeli authorities prohibit restoration of old wells. Owners of
wells that existed prior to June 1967 were forced to place meters to determine
exact amounts of water drawn from their wells.
Palestinian Planing Center reported that Israeli Water Commission exercised
direct and tight control over Palestinian water resources since 1967. Two
Israeli companies, Tahal was responsible for regulating water
policies while Mekorot, was entrusted with digging artesian wells
and sales of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
studies on water shares have shown that a Palestinian individual consumes on
average, for all purposes, 30 liters of water per day. While an Israeli settler
uses, for domestic purposes only, 350 liters/day, i.e. ten times the amount used
by a Palestinian individual. This number does not include water consumption for
industrial or irrigation purposes.
a comparative study prepared by Fahmi Shahin, a researcher with LAWE, the
Palestinian Society for Human Right and the Environment, have shown that an
Israeli settler in the settlements of Qiryat Arba’a or Kharsina,
uses ten times as much as any Palestinian living in the nearby city of Hebron. Table
(3)9shows the big difference in consumption in the two adjacent urban areas.
The reason for such difference is that the amount of water destined for the city
of Hebron is pre-determined by the Israeli authorities. Daily needs for water in
the city of Hebron exceeds the amount reaches every household. Table (3)
also shows the reduction in water supplied to the Palestinians between 1997 and
1998. Additionally, Israeli settlers often vandalize the water networks in the
Hebron District, which causes frequent disruption in water supplies. Often,
Israeli settler’s cut-off water supply to the city of Hebron for prolonged
periods; they physically wreck the water mains in the area; they divert large
amounts of water, destined to Hebron, for irrigation of settlers’ farms in the
violation of its agreement with the city of Hebron, Mekorot, the
Israeli company responsible for providing Hebron with water often reduces the
amount of water it pumps to the city without notice. According to the agreement,
Mekorot is supposed to pump 25,000 cubic meters daily to the city.
Instead, it only pumps 5500 cubic meters daily. This amount is often reduced
especially in the summer.
District of Bethlehem, only 35% of its population of 150,000
Palestinians, received water through the local network in the first half of
1999. Water supplies, earmarked for the District, were reduced by 30% in 1999.
The District of Bethlehem receives 300 cubic meters/hour while the actual need
surpasses 1500 cubic meters/hour. A recent study by Palestinian NGOs have
determined that in 1989 the 100,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories have consumed 60 million cubic meters while a million and a half
Palestinians consumed only 137 million cubic meters of water in the period.10
on-going massive reduction in water supplied to the occupied territories and the
escalating prices of water, Palestinian crops could no longer compete with
Israeli agricultural goods. Irrigated areas in the occupied territories dropped
from 37% to 3.7%. The occupation authorities imposed harsh conditions on
Palestinian agriculture. They even determined what type of crops to be planted
and the amount of water to be used for irrigation. Many Palestinian farmers
abandoned their farms, which were later confiscated by the Israeli authorities
using Military Orders especially made-up for this purpose. Many of those farmers
went to work, as cheap laborers, in Israeli factories. Others, looking for a
decent living, immigrated elsewhere. Yet many farmers and landowners, which
could not cope with heavy losses, joined the long lines of the unemployed,
adding to the already devastating social and psychological problems in the
Palestinian factories in the occupied territories, suffer great losses because
of reductions in water supplies. Many factories, in the food, stone-cutting or
construction industries were forced to close down. Many of its workers became
unemployed. Hospitals, because of water shortages, suffered unending problems
with hygiene and several units for kidney dialysis were shut down.
shortages in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have added more to the
sufferings inflicted on the Palestinians that it affected all aspects of life.
In most areas, a Palestinian could not get the chance to bathe even once a week.
Dirty dishes are often stacked for days waiting for water. Over 300 Palestinian
communities lack water networks. Other communities are prohibited by the Israeli
authorities to effect any repairs in their decaying old networks.
fast expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have added
more to the existing water shortages, especially, in surface water which feed
the aquifers. Sewage and wastewater from Israeli settlements is absorbed,
untreated, by the soil, which affects the quality of fresh water reserves in the
excessive consumption of enormous amounts of water from aquifers underneath the
Palestinian Territories in addition to its blocking of surface-water running
north-south, have caused immense damage to the aquifers. Seawater has begun to
seep underneath the Gazan soil and have raised salinity in the Gaza aquifers to
unacceptable levels. Dozens of people have reported liver and kidney ailments
because of high salinity levels. A Dutch study reported that Gaza would have a
serious problem with drinking water in the year 2000. Salinity levels reached
4500-5000 mg/liter in several artesian wells11. Internationally acceptable
levels do not exceed 50 mg/liter.
study, prepared by Dr. Yusuf Abu Safiah, revealed that pollution levels
in Gaza water have exceeded any internationally accepted levels especially with
Fluoride. The World Health Organization recommends Fluoride levels not to exceed
.07 part/million in drinking water. The Fluoride levels in drinking water in
Gaza have exceeded 2 part/million. Fresh water in Gaza has become rich with
Nitrates a cancer causing agent. Dozens of cases of water poisoning are reported
in Gaza particularly among school children. Because of high salinity, Gaza water
has become unsuitable for irrigation, which led to the drying-up of large
Israeli feverish settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in
addition to the increasing number of settlers along with newcomers to Israel
have increased the demand for Palestinian water. Israeli pillage of Palestinian
fresh water at the expense of the Palestinian people aims only to coerce the
Palestinian to vacate the land to make room for more Israeli settlers. Depriving
the Palestinians of their water will negatively impact the peace process. How
could the Palestinians trust Israelis and believe that they truly want peace
when their faucets are dry while Israeli settlers bathe in their swimming pools
filled with Palestinian fresh water? Only peace based on justice will prevail.
The right to water is equally important as the right to land. Both rights were
usurped by the Israeli occupation.
an American writer, wrote: “
covetousness for Arab waters is an integral part of its strategy regarding
resources including oil, minerals and commercial competition to acquire cheap
labor and other economical resources in addition to water. Israeli pillage of
water from the territories it occupied in 1967 does not only cover its
ever-increasing needs but it saves Israel the trouble to seek alternative water
resources which may cost her as much as 2 billion US dollars…
Israeli withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967 means relinquishing
designs for regional water resources are clear for any observer of the
Arab-Israeli conflict. In Palestine, Israel controls 81% of the water resources
by military power and has systematically tried to force the Palestinians off
their land to make room for its settlers. For the past twenty years Israel
controlled the rivers Hasbani, Litani and Wazzani
in South Lebanon. It also controlled the origins of Jordan and Yarmook
rivers in the occupied Golan Heights and the springs on Mount
Hermon. Through the growing Israeli-Turkish cooperation, Israel supports
Turkish aggressive policies towards Iraq and Syria, two Arab neighbors who share
with Turkey, the basins of Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Even in the negotiations
for peace with its Arab neighbors Israel insists to keep a firm control over
regional water resources and demands a guaranteed large allotment in any future
policies and measures to steal Palestinian water have had perpetual damage to
the Palestinian economy, especially, the agricultural sector. The situation in
many Palestinian communities is deteriorating as municipalities can not find
enough water to cope with natural growth. Palestinian communities currently get
about 30% of water produced in their territories while they actually need
at least 70% of the water produced in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
International pressure is overdue to impel Israel to honor its obligations under
the agreements it had signed. Israel must transfer all authority regarding water
resources to the Palestinians including the right to dig new artesian wells to
satisfy Palestinian needs. Israeli authorities must put an end to its illegal
settlement policies as the increasing number of Israeli settler’s means more
pilfering of Palestinian water.
persistence with its undeterred policies to pilfer Arab waters will lead the
region to the brink of war. A 1992 CIA report confirmed that the Middle East may
witness an outbreak of hostilities over water rights with Israel and Jordan on
top of the list of concerned countries.13
Resources in Gaza. Table (1)
(million cubic meters)
Water From Eastern Hills
Resources in the West Bank. Table (2)
(million cubic meters)
and Yarmook Rivers
in shares Between Palestinians in Hebron and Israeli Settlers in the Settlements
of Kharsina and Qiryat Arba’a*. Table (3)
a Palestinian City with a population of 140,000
and Qiryat Arba’a, with a population of 5500 Israelis
per person, July 1997
per person, July 1998
Kharsina and Qiryat Arba’a are two Israeli settlements near the city of
Hebron. Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are a
violation of international humanitarian law.
Quantities are in cubic meters.
Zionist Pilfering for Arab Water in the West Bank and Gaza strip.
Mohammed Abdel-Khaleq, Palestine Magazine, Vol.6, spring 1999.
Water in the West Bank and Gaza strip and Israeli policies. Yussef Kussef
Kamal Hassouneh, Al-Quds daily 2 October 1999.
Dr.Yussuf Abu Mayyala, Al-Quds daily.issue 9291.on 11July 1995.
Drying –up of Palestinian Cities and villages: An Israeli policy since
1967. By Amira Hess. Al-Quds daily, issue9333 on 22 August 1995.
Israeli Violations of the agreement on Water. A Report by the Palestine
Water in the Middle East-Justifications for War and Peace.Ahmad
Jaber.Alternative Vision, vol.29, August1999.
Zionist P Pilfering for Arab Water in the West Bank and Gaza strip.
Mohammed Abdel-Khaleq, Palestine Magazine, Vol.6, spring 1999.
Fahmi Shahin.Peoples Rights Magazine, vol.13, January1999.
Water: A Symbol for Peace and A Cause for Conflict.Newsletter of
Palestinian NGOs, Al-Quds daily, issue 9346 on 4 September 1995.
The Water Crisis: Will it drowned the Negotiations? By Muhsen Al-Ifranjy,
Al-Quds daily, issue 9322,on 11 August 1995.
Zionist P Pilfering for Arab Water in the West Bank and Gaza strip.
Mohammed Abdel-Khaleq, Palestine Magazine, Vol.6, spring 1999.
Israeli greed for Arab
Waters.Nabil Salem. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 22 August 1999.