By: Firas Taweel
Israel controls 85% of water resources in the West Bank
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
If the Israeli annexation plan were implemented, a Palestinian entity, whatever the name, would become an impossible. This entity, if established, would be Israel economy’s backyard and a depot for cheap labour, while the Palestinian people would become patrons of Israeli desalination companies, and Palestinian waters would be exploited to intensify agriculture and industry in Israeli settlements. This is how Abdelrahman Al Tamimi, director general of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, summarized the impact of the so-called Israeli annexation plan on the water sector and the Palestinian situation in general.
According to the Palestinian Water Authority, Israel controls 85% of the water resources in the occupied territory. If the so-called annexation plan was implemented, catastrophic implication will directly affect this sector. It will result, according to Al Tamimi, in depriving Palestinians of water sources estimated at (70%) of the eastern basin, equivalent to 130 million cubic meters. That is in addition to completely depriving the Palestinian people of the Jordan River water. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority (regardless of the legal status) will lose the right as a state (or the people's right) to be a Jordan River riparian, thus deprivation from utilization and storage of its water. The Palestinian side will no longer be a partner in any future negotiations between Israel and the Arabs.
The consequences of annexation extend to obstructing the PA’s right to access the Dead Sea, thus losing the right to benefit from the natural resources and springs adjacent to this sea, estimated at 70-90 million cubic meter of water, as well as depriving the Palestinian people of the springs by the Dead Sea, especially Al Fashkha.
Al Tamimi says that it won’t stop there. He suspects that Israel will demand that the waters of the eastern valleys stay flowing without being hindered, for Israel to store those waters, just as the case is now in the northern Jordan Valley. Palestinian cities will become patrons of Israeli desalination plants, while Palestinian water is allocated to serving agriculture in Israeli settlements.
Irrigated Agriculture Will Disappear from Palestine
The indirect consequences of the annexation will be disastrous for various sectors, especially agriculture, as the Palestinian people will be deprived of about a million dunums of arable land, according to Abdelrahman Al Tamimi’s estimates. "Israel will deny Palestinians (people or entity) from benefiting from the eastern valleys under the pretext that they are tributaries of the Jordan River, and will build dams to benefit from the valleys' bases. Annexing water sources in the Jordan Valley will greatly affect all prospects of economic and social development, especially ensuring food security which will become impossible since Palestinians are deprived any ability to plan an integrated infrastructure for water and agricultural”.
Al Tamimi goes on saying: “Israel exploitation of groundwater will affect community development, and Palestinian farmers will become labours at Israeli settlements, while the Palestinian market becomes a venue for commercializing the settlements’ products. Irrigated agriculture will disappear from West Bank. Israel’s increased pumping and depletion of groundwater will subject Palestinian wells and reservoirs to high salinity because of their age and shallowness, especially in the Jordan Valley. Palestinian water will be used to intensify agriculture in settlements”.
Translated by: Carol Khoury