Israel's greed


Israel must reverse its policy of denying the Palestinian people access to adequate water. A report by Amnesty International (AI) says that Israel has “entirely appropriated the Palestinians’ share of the Jordan river” and uses 80 per cent of the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. West Bank Palestinians are not allowed to drill wells without Israeli permission, which is often impossible to get. Even harvesting rainwater isn’t an option for Palestinians as the Israeli army often destroys the cisterns. The report says that average consumption of water by an Israeli settler in the West Bank is four times that of the Palestinian.

While the Palestinians have no water to slake their thirst, Israelis waste it on lush gardens and swimming pools, the report says. The situation in Gaza is worse. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that Gaza’s access to clean drinking water is on the brink of total collapse. Gaza’s already weak water infrastructure was bombarded by the Israelis during their offensive in Dec-January. Sewage-contaminated seawater and toxin-infected agricultural overflow has left Gaza’s only underground aquifer unfit for human consumption.

Israel’s response to these reports has been one of outright denial. It has dismissed the AI report accusing it of disproportionate appropriation of water as “distorted and superficial.” It claims it has met its obligations under the Oslo agreement and blamed the Palestinians for not distributing water efficiently. Denial will not make the injustice go away.

It is not just the Palestinians that are upset with Israel’s moves to corner most of the region’s water. Syria and Lebanon too have issues with Israel occupying land (the Golan Heights) where rivers originate or diverting rivers to water its own land. The past couple of years have been particularly difficult for the region as it is suffering the devastating impact of the worst drought in many decades.  Israel’s unilateral actions to appropriate water instead of sharing it are triggering anger across the region. Israel cannot hope to build security for itself and its people so long as it continues to occupy other’s land and hog resources meant to be shared fairly. Its refusal to give the Palestinians the water due to them is fuelling rage and may jeopardise Israel’s security.

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