Water is our most precious natural resource, vital for all forms of life.
It covers 70.9 per cent of the Earth’s surface, but only 2 per cent is fresh water, which must be conserved. Demand for renewable fresh water has already outstripped supply. The critical shortage affects every function related to human existence: drinking, bathing, cleaning, cooking and growing crops.
Yet, as populations and faddish hi-tech innovations go out of control, greed continues – polluting, diverting, pumping and wasting our limited water supply at an expedient level.
The West Bank settler population has mushroomed from 110,000 to 320,000. Of the water available from West Bank aquifers, Israel uses 73 per cent, West Bank Palestinians use 17 per cent and Jewish settlers use 10 per cent. While 10-14 per cent of Palestine’s GDP is agricultural, 90 per cent of its farmers must rely on antiquated rain-fed methods. Israel’s agriculture accounts for only 3 per cent of its GPD, but Israel irrigates more than 50 per cent of its own land.
Under international law, it is illegal for Israel to expropriate the water of the Occupied Palestinian Territories for use by its own citizens, and doubly illegal to expropriate it for increasingly aggressive settlers. Furthermore, Israel owes Palestinians reparations for past and continuing use and abuse of water resources. Regarding the Jordan River system, the Palestinians have no access and remain unconnected to any water infrastructure whatsoever.
The Israeli-Palestinian stalemate has featured diversion tactics to wage a bullyrag war with Iran at the expense of a negotiated settlement. This, even though the tentatively agreed-upon key components are in place: mutual recognition, borders, security, control of Jerusalem, occupation, settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement, the refugee question and water rights.
Palestinians justifiably contend that “water war” politics is just part of the demeaning and humiliating injustices of occupation. Issues that adversely affect West Bank residents’ health, hygiene and rights should be addressed in an international forum. But, without fair-minded outside intervention, they undoubtedly won’t be.