Palestinians continue to suffer water shortages as Israeli authorities reject granting licensing Palestinian water authorities free operation in Israel-controlled areas. For decades, Palestinians have faced hydro-politisation, an ongoing dispute over the use and control of water resources in the region, which has led to a severe lack of water for many Palestinians.The ongoing conflict over water resources in the Middle East is a jarring example of transforming the most basic and natural resource into a political and strategic tool and must be addressed promptly.
The water conflict dates back to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and escalated in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel began the control and exploitation of the water resources in the Palestinian territories. This led to a significant decrease in water availability for the Palestinians. The problem intensified further in the 1990s, when Palestinians and Israelis began to negotiate the Oslo Accords and established the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), transfering control of some water resources to the P.A. According to Jad Elias Isaac, Director General of the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, Israel still maintains sovereignty over around 85 percent of the West Bank’s water reserves at present. Israel continues to controls and exploits major water resources in the region, including the Jordan River, the Mountain Aquifer, and the Coastal Aquifer. Furthermore, during summer 2014, armed violence in Gaza caused over one million inhabitants to lose access to their city’s water supply.
As a result of the water conflict, the Palestinians are experiencing severe water shortages. They have been forced to purchase water from Israel at high prices. This has led to economic and health hardship for many Palestinians. According to research conducted by Amnesty International, Palestinians living in the territory, now known as the occupied West Bank, can only access an average of 73 liters of water daily, as compared to the average of 240 liters by an average Israeli citizen and a stark 300 liters by illegal Israeli Jewish settler, with sufficient available for drinking and enough to spare for other daily activities. On the other hand, the amount of water allocated to Palestinians falls far short of even the daily minimum 100 liters of drinking water recommended by the W.H.O.
Since 2000, the European Union has provided 852 million euros in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. In the Gaza Strip, E.U. financing gives economic support to needy families, enabling them to meet their fundamental necessities, offering emergency help, protection, and access to key services like water in the West Bank. U.N.I.C.E.F. is also working to provide more water resources to the Palestinians. Palestinians have access to a large quantity of saline water, thus, the shortage issue may be mitigated if some of this water can be purified for consumption. Since 2014, U.N.I.C.E.F. has established a seawater desalination plant with funding from the European Union. U.N.I.C.E.F. reported that the facility has ultimately helped around 250,000 people in 2020. By working together and implementing some of the proposed solutions, it is possible to resolve the water conflict in Palestine and improve the quality of life for everyone involved.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but a number of possible options have been proposed by experts. These options include increasing water efficiency and conservation measures in both Israel and Palestine, pursuing peace and stability in the region as a whole, improving water infrastructure and management in both Israel and Palestine, and working towards a regional water-sharing agreement between Israel, Palestine, and other neighboring countries. No matter which solution is ultimately chosen, it is essential that the conflict over water is resolved in a fair and equitable way.
The water conflict is a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East. It is a key issue that needs to be addressed in any future peace negotiations. Water is a fundamental human right, and access to clean water should not be restricted or limited in any way, making water conflict a pressing issue that needs to be addressed urgently.