Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a water cooperation agreement on Sunday, the fourth major infrastructure deal agreed to in the past year and a half.
The agreement, which will restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, was signed by Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister.
The committee is charged with modernizing the water infrastructure in the West Bank, giving Palestinian villages and towns better access to water.
The committee had been created as temporary measure by the Oslo II interim agreement in 1995, and was supposed to operate for five years. It last met six years ago. The agreement was signed in the winter so that the committee can be fully operational by summer, the dry season. The two sides have also agreed on a joint strategic planning mechanism that will govern water resources until 2040 and meet the needs of the growing population.
The water agreement showed that it is possible to arrive at “understandings and agreements when dealing with practical, bilateral issues, free of external influences, dealing with natural resources and other infrastructure issues that affect the entire population,” Mordechai said.
The other infrastructure agreements signed by Israel and the PA in the past year and a half govern electricity, mail, and 3G phone service.
Water has been a contentious issue between Israel and the PA, with the Jewish state often being falsely accused of denying Palestinians water or poisoning wells. As Akiva Bigman observed in The Myth of the Thirsty Palestinian, which was published in the April 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, this is especially pernicious because “to the extent that a viable water supply infrastructure exists in the West Bank, it is because Israel built and maintained it. While this infrastructure was certainly constructed, in part, to service Israeli communities, its benefits have not been denied to the Palestinians, and no one familiar with the statistics involved can claim otherwise without being patently dishonest.”
[Photo: COGAT ]