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Occupied Palestinian Territory

International water issues

During the Six Day War, in 1967, Israel took control of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. This gave Israel control of the Jordan River’s headwaters and significant groundwater resources.

More than thirty years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been accompanied by a series of laws and practices targeting land and water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Water resources were confiscated for the benefit of the Israeli settlements in the Ghor. Palestinian irrigation pumps on the Jordan River were destroyed or confiscated after the 1967 war and Palestinians were not allowed to use water from the Jordan River system. In other zones, the Israeli authorities introduced quotas on existing irrigation wells to restrict the amount of water pumped from these wells. Furthermore, the authorities did not allow any new irrigation wells to be drilled by Palestinian farmers, while it provided fresh water and allowed drilling wells for irrigation purposes in the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In 1993, the “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements” was signed between Palestinians and Israelis, which called for Palestinian autonomy and the removal of Israeli military forces from Gaza and Jericho. Among other issues, this bilateral agreement called for the creation of a Palestinian Water Administration Authority and cooperation regarding water, including a Water Development Program prepared by experts from both sides, which would also specify the mode of cooperation in the management of water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Between 1993 and 1995, Israeli and Palestinian representatives negotiated to broaden the provisional agreement to encompass more the West Bank territory. In September 1995, the “Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”, commonly referred to as “Oslo II”, was signed. The question of water rights was one of the most difficult to negotiate, with a final agreement postponed to be included in the negotiations for final status arrangements. However a significant compromise was achieved between the two sides: Israel recognized Palestinian water rights (during the interim period a quantity of 70-80 million m3 should be made available to the Palestinians), and a Joint Water Committee was established to cooperatively manage the West Bank water and to develop new supplies. This Committee also supervised joint patrols to investigate illegal water withdrawals. No territory whatsoever was identified as being necessary for Israeli annexation due to access to water resources (Wolf, 1996). In 2003, the Roadmap for Peace, developed by the United States in cooperation with the Russian Federation, the European Union, and the United Nations (the Quartet), was presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with the purpose of achieving a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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