David M. Weinberg
European Parliament President Martin Schulz has now admitted that he "had not checked the figures" when in the Knesset yesterday he accused Israel, effectively, of water apartheid against the Palestinians. "A young Palestinian asked me why Israelis can use 70 liters of water and Palestinians only 17. I didn't check the data. I'm asking you if it's right," Schulz now says, only somewhat apologetically.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett were right to blast Schulz for such sloppy, reflexive regurgitation of Palestinian propaganda.
Can you imagine the leader of any country haphazardly throwing into their speech in a foreign parliament a statement or accusation that hadn't been checked and verified a dozen times?
Of course not! These speeches are usually carefully prepared and vetted by many bureaucrats, political aides and superior officers. But not when it comes to Palestinian lies about Israel. They can casually be cast into a major, formal speech in the Israeli parliament without caution.
That is a classic example of the bias in EU behavior regarding Israel, and is exactly what Israel abhors about European attitudes these days. All's fair in the Palestinian war against Israel, and Europe is there to lap up Palestinian accusations against Israel, and to churn them out and amplify them without judicious review, reflection or balance.
Schulz and his undoubtedly many European Parliament aides could have known better -- had they
wanted to. The Palestinian Authority considers water and waste as weapons against Israel, not as areas of cooperation with Israel. As a result, it wildly wastes water and pollutes Israel with sewage, while stealing water from Israel's wells and pipelines. Then it runs around the world falsely accusing Israel of inequitable and discriminatory water policies.
In an exceptional study published last year by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, one of Israel's top hydrologists, Professor Haim Gvirtzman, shows that large differences in per capita consumption of natural water between Jews and Arabs that existed in 1967 (when the administration of Judea and Samaria moved from Jordan to Israel) have been greatly reduced over the last 40 years. He thoroughly refutes Palestinian accusations of inequitable and discriminatory Israeli water policies.
The Palestinian Authority currently consumes 200 million cubic meters of water every year, with Israel providing more than 50 million cubic meters of this -- which, under the Oslo and Paris accords, is more than Israel is supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final status arrangement!
Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority claims that it suffers from water shortages in its towns and villages due to the Israeli occupation and it cites international law in support of its claims. These claims grandiosely amount to more than 700 million cubic meters of water per year, including rights over the groundwater reservoir of the Mountain Aquifer, the Gaza Strip Coastal Aquifer and the Jordan River. These inflated demands amount to more than 50 percent of the total natural water available between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
But Gvirtzman, of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University (who has for years been part of the Israeli team for water coordination with the PA), demonstrates that the current division of natural fresh water resources between Israel and the Palestinians is fair. Israel's population stands at 7.2 million, five times the actual West Bank Palestinian population of 1.4 million. Proportionately, Israel controls 1,200 million cubic meters of the available natural fresh water, and the PA 220 million cubic meters. In per capita terms, this works out to about 160 metric cubes of water per person per annum in both Israel and the PA. As for settler water use, well, Israel sends into the West Bank for Palestinian usage far more water than settler communities use.
Statistics released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian Water Authority for World Water Day last March, according to Gvirtzman, are fabricated. Straight-out lies. In complete contradiction of the PA's concocted data, Gvirtzman shows that every Israeli citizen pays more for his or her water -- in order to subsidize Israel's sale of water to the Palestinians at discount prices! In fact, residents of Ariel and Maaleh Adumim (not to mention Tel Aviv and Haifa) pay twice as much for their water than residents of Nablus and Ramallah pay for their water -- if the latter bother to pay anything at all.
But most of all, Gvirtzman's BESA Center report accuses the PA of doing almost nothing to preventing massive leaking in its domestic pipelines; almost nothing to implement modern water conservation techniques; and nothing to recycle sewage water for irrigation.
In fact, many Palestinian farmers routinely overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Generally, they don't pay their own water bills, so they don't care to conserve. (The PA uses international donor money to pay for this waste). Moreover, at least one-third of the water being pumped out of the ground by the Palestinians is wasted through leakage and mismanagement -- by the Palestinian Water Authority's own estimates. The PA euphemistically calls this "unaccounted for water."
Worse still, no recycling of water takes place in the Palestinian Authority and no treated water is used for agriculture. By contrast, in Israel about half of all agriculture is sustained by treated waste water. In fact, Israel's use of treated wastewater, its desalination activities, and its measures to reduce water losses in the water system add 800 million cubic meters per year to its water supply, amounting to one third of Israel's total water usage.
At the same time, 95% of the 56 million cubic meters per year of sewage produced by the Palestinians is not treated at all. Palestinian sewage flows untreated into the streams and valleys of the West Bank, and infiltrates into the mountain aquifer, polluting it for Jews and Arabs alike. Some 17 million cubic meters per year of raw Palestinian sewage flows into (pre-1967) Israel too.
Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500 million international donor fund available to the Palestinians for this purpose, and despite the fact that Israel has practically begged the PA to build these sewage plants. Only last year did the PA agree to accept World Bank funding for wastewater treatment plants in Hebron and Nablus.
Even when Israel itself builds a sewage pipeline, like the Wadi Kana trunk line to collect waste water from several communities in the Qalqilya district and treat the sewage in Israel, the PA declines to cooperate. It has not connected the 11 Palestinian towns in the area to this new sewage line. "The Palestinians generally refuse to build sewage treatment plants," Gvirtzman says.
The PA also has violated its water agreements with Israel by drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 million cubic meters a year of water, and by connecting these pirate wells to its electricity grid. Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected itself in many places to the water lines of Israel's Mekorot national water company -- stealing Israel's water.
The Civil Administration points out that the PA has barely begun to tap into the Eastern Aquifer in the West Bank (which was allocated to PA use by accord with Israel), from which it could produce another 60 million cubic meters per year. The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee has approved the drilling of 70 water wells by the PA for this purpose, yet more than half of the approved wells have not yet been drilled. This would put a grand total of 260 million cubic meters of water per year at the disposal of the PA.
The Palestinians also have rejected on political grounds a proposal which would have created a water desalination plant in Gaza specifically to meet Palestinian needs. The U.S. had set aside $250 million for the project, which again could have yielded a huge increase in the amount of available water for the Palestinians.
"The ugly truth behind all the anti-Israel propaganda is that PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management," says Gvirtzman.
Unfortunately, the international community has allowed the PA to get away with this hostile behavior; allowed the PA to continue its strategy of non-cooperation with Israel; and overlooked the PA's flouting of all logical standards of professional conduct in water and waste management. It also fails to credit Israel for its advancement of the water situation in Judea and Samaria, and Israel's willingness to do more.
And then Mr. Schulz of the European Parliament has the gall to come to the Knesset to criticize Israel for "water discrimination." Such incredible chutzpah!