U.S. Water News Online
JERUSALEM -- A far-right Israeli Cabinet minister has
ordered a stop to all water drilling by Palestinians in the West
Bank, accusing them of drawing illegally from hundreds of wells and
depleting supplies in the parched region.
The Palestinian water commissioner denounced the decision by
Israeli Infrastructure Minister Effie Eitam, saying it was part of
what he called the Israeli government's ``war'' against the
Palestinians. ``They want us to be thirsty,'' said the commissioner,
The Israeli agriculture minister, Shalom Simchon, also criticized
Eitam, saying the drilling ban would cause unnecessary friction with
Eitam, a patron of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, said he issued the ban because the Palestinians are
violating water-sharing agreements and ``are carrying out hundreds of
illegal water drillings, seriously hurting the water resources.''
Eitam, who heads the National Religious Party, said Israel would
continue to fulfill its obligation to supply the Palestinians with
water to avoid a water shortage in Palestinian areas.
Kawash, the Palestinian commissioner, accused Israel of not
fulfilling interim water agreements reached in 1995. Under the
arrangement, Israel was to make it possible for the Palestinians to
obtain enough water to overcome annual shortages. Kawash said that of
200 wells the Palestinians proposed, Israel only approved 14, leaving
more than 300,000 Palestinians in 240 villages without running water.
The shortage of water has led some Palestinians, mostly around the
West Bank city of Jenin, to drill wells illegally, Kawash said,
adding that the water is mostly used for drinking and for small
``We couldn't stop them because we have no alternative way of
providing them with water,'' Kawash said.
Israel uses 85 percent of Palestinian water supplies in the West
Bank, Kawash said.
In the past two years of fighting, when all other forms of
cooperation between the sides fell apart, joint ventures in water and
agriculture continued, said Simchon, the Israeli agriculture
But Kawash said that a joint water committee has not met since
hardline Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to power in 2001.
Kawash said that if Israel restricted Palestinian water supplies,
``we are going to find ourselves in a big crisis in the coming
``Don't be surprised if the next intefadeh (uprising) will be the
water intefadeh, led by thirsty people who want water,'' Kawash said.
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