What To Do About Water

Haim Watzman

Today’s rollout of a draft model Israeli-Palestinian water accord by EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) demonstrated several of the salient but frustrating truths about this most urgent area of conflict.

First, it’s solvable. With proper planning, conservation, reuse, and production, there is enough water available for all 11 million Israelis and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Second, it has to be solved now. It can’t wait for a comprehensive peace agreement.

Third, the Palestinians aren’t getting their fair share—and it’s not just the Palestinians who are saying this. Nearly all Israeli experts agree.

Fourth, despite the direness of the situation, Israel’s leaders are doing little to create a political constituency for the changes required.

The FOEME draft agreement, written by David Brooks, a Canadian hydrogeologist and economist, and by Julie Trottier, a Belgian political scientist and chemist, proposes to get away from the zero-sum “dividing up the pie” way of addressing water conflicts and proposes to see water as a dynamic entity.

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A Thirst for Sanity: Alon Tal on Israel, Palestine, and Water

Haim Watzman

Half a year ago, Amnesty International published a report on Palestinian access to water called ”Thirsting for Justice,” in which it largely blamed Israel for the Palestinians’ water woes.

Now Alon Tal, one of Israel’s leading environmentalists, has come out with a reasoned but impassioned critique of Amnesty’s victimization narrative, along with sober recommendations for a regional water policy that can serve the very real needs of the inhabitants of this increasingly dry area of the world. It’s called “Thirsting for Pragmatism: A Constructive Alternative to Amnesty International’s Report on Access to Water,” and it appears in the new issue of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. It’s a 16-page, well-written read and I recommend it in its entirety on all levels—as fine policy analysis, as scathing attack on those for whom Israel is always the villain, and as an example of how, even in the midst of the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians can and must address vital environmental problems that will bury us all if we don’t cooperate.

But I offer a few selections for the rushed. First the basic facts:

Thirsting for Justice contains so much arbitrary, biased, and anecdotal disinformation that it is easy to lose sight of a basic truth about the region’s water conditions that is contained in the report: The amount of water available to Palestinian communities is inadequate, and its quality is frequently unacceptable. Recognizing this intolerable situation is an important point of departure for all parties when considering solutions. At the same time, the low level of Palestinian access to water is a symptom of a complex reality….

And the best way of dealing with it:

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