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Israel, Palestinian Water Agreement: Glass Half Empty?

Courtesy of STRATFOR (subscription required), a report on a new water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Territories:

Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a water-sharing agreement under U.S. mediation. Israel agreed to provide 32 million cubic meters (about 8.5 billion gallons) of water annually to the Palestinian territories. Though the agreement is an advancement on a contentious issue, it is relatively little to ask of Israel. The 32 million cubic meters Israel will provide — until the desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan associated with the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance project is completed — is less than 10 percent of total Palestinian consumption.

Given the dire water scarcity situation facing the territories, The Palestinian Authority may divert a third of the water from this latest deal to the Gaza Strip where the scarcity is most acute (annual demand there is four times the natural groundwater supply). With demand outpacing supply, the Palestinian Authority needs a renewable source of affordable water.

Water ownership and control is a tense topic between the two governments. Israel may be a water-scarce nation, but it is also the world’s leader in water management, water recycling and desalination technology. Despite scarce natural resources, Israel combined a series of canals and carriers, desalination plants, recycling facilities along with pricing schemes to ensure water security. The Palestinians rely mainly on groundwater resources within their territories to meet demand. Aquifers rarely respect national boundaries, however, and the drilling of water wells both in Israel and Palestinian territories has historically been a point of contention. The current deal provides Israel flexibility in terms of water sourcing until the desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan is completed. A much more substantial advancement would be an agreement on cross-border groundwater resources and extraction.

From a political standpoint, the small amount of progress on water sharing is the first achievement in mediation by the new U.S. administration, which is desperate to advance the issue of Arab-Israeli peace. But within the complex peace negotiations, water is one issue among countless others that will be harder to resolve. While U.S. envoy and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt said he hoped the July 13 water-sharing agreement is a “harbinger of things to come,” Palestinian officials are less optimistic. The United States aims to use the agreement as a stepping off point for cooperation on more vexing issues, including settlements, Palestinian security, potential embassy moves and refugee resettlement. But the head of the Palestinian Water Authority said that, though the agreement is helpful, it does not touch on other aspects of the negotiations.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 14th, 2017 at 4:28 am and is filed under Israel.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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