April 20, 2009 – Water Being Held Hostage to the Conflict

EcoPeace Middle East response to the World Bank’s report on restrictions on the Palestinian water sector

Tel Aviv, Bethlehem
April 20, 2009

EcoPeace Middle East calls on the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to replace the failed Joint Water Committee (JWC) with a new joint water management structure. EcoPeace calls on the Quartet led by the new Administration of US President Barak Obama to focus on the dire Palestinian water economy as a matter of urgency and help the parties replace the JWC with a new institution that empowers both sides as equal partners.The World Bank report “ASSESSMENT OF RESTRICTIONS ON PALESTINIAN WATER SECTOR DEVELOPMENT’ released today, reveals the extent to which water resources and sustainable development are being held hostage to the conflict.

“It is time to replace the failed mechanism of the Joint Water Committee, established under Oslo, with an institution where Palestinians and Israelis are true partners in both water supply and management responsibilities,” said Nader Khateeb, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East.

As earlier reports of EcoPeace detailed and the latest World Bank report highlighted, the Joint Water Committee has failed the interests of both peoples, not providing the water quantities needed to Palestinians and not protecting shared Israeli/Palestinian water resources from large scale pollution.

“The irony is that due to the water crises, following 5 consecutive years of draught, pollution largely from Palestinian sources poses an ever increasing threat to the declining shared water reserves,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East. “A key problem with the JWC is that it has disempowered the Palestinians from being able to take responsibility for water management. The Palestinians receive so little of the shared water, that Israelis must ask themselves, what incentive do Palestinians have to protect shared water from pollution?” he added.

In 2008, EcoPeace released a Model Water Agreement that called for the replacement of the Joint Water Committee with a new body where equivalent powers and responsibilities would lie with both sides covering all shared water resources.

As the World Bank report highlights the present structure of the JWC gives virtual veto power just to the Israeli side on all shared water issues.

“After 15 years of JWC failure, the results have proven to be catastrophic. It’s urgent to free the water sector and water needs of both peoples from the conflict”, continued Nader Khateeb, EcoPeace Palestinian Director.

EcoPeace Middle East is a regional environmental organization where Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians are working together to promote sustainable development and sustainable peace.

For more information please contact:
Gidon Bromberg; Israeli Director on +972-524532597
Nader Khateeb; Palestinian Director on +972-599606544
Mira Edelstein; Foreign Media Officer on +972-546392937

For more information on EcoPeace and PDF files of our model Israeli Palestinian Water Accord please visit www.ecopeaceme.org