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After years of stalemate and recrimination in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum of September 4, 1999, has brought new hope that these two peoples can at last bring an end to their 100-year conflict over the land and resources they both claim. For Israelis peace will bring a significant step in the direction of freedom from fear over national and personal security but for Palestinians it will bring much more, the opportunity to politically and economically develop a state of their own. Ehud Barak, Israel's new prime minister from the Labor party, and Yasir Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), have given themselves one year, until September 13, 2000, to negotiate a final agreement.

While water is not mentioned specifically in the Sharm accord, allocation and utilization of joint water resources will be one of the major issues negotiated over the coming months along with borders, the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees. The water issue has not received the attention of these others in the world press, but a permanent peace agreement will never materialize unless the two parties can agree on an equitable utilization of their scarce water resources. The water accords were one of the most important elements of the Taba Interim Agreement (Oslo II) signed by Israel and the PA in September 1995. While the implementation of these accords cannot be described as an untarnished success, the process is ongoing. Of greatest importance, the joint institutions established by the accords marked a transition to a new stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. No longer occupier and occupied, they are now parties working together to implement an agreed policy. The purpose of this article is to examine and assess the implementation of the water accords of the Oslo II agreement.(1)

Cobbled together at the tail-end of the Taba negotiating process because Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat would not let water stand in the way of an overall agreement, the water accords were hailed by some observers as the most significant results of the Israeli-Palestinian talks that began at Oslo in 1993.(2) Most far reaching and controversial of Article 40 of the agreement, which covers the water accords, is the first paragraph, where Israel formally recognizes Palestinian water rights in the West Bank. The nature and extent of these rights are deferred to the final-status talks, yet their acceptance in principle represented a significant concession by Israel from its earlier stance and opens the way to joint water institutions based on international legal conventions when the political negotiations get back on track. The agreement establishes an initial mechanism for cooperation and coordination in the sphere of water resources and sewage in the West Bank through a Joint Water Committee (JWC). With each side having equal representation and veto power, the JWC's responsibilities cover licensing of new wells and other water installations, monitoring and adjusting extractions quotas from all water sources in the territory, and planning the construction of new water and sewage systems. Responsibility for monitoring compliance with the committee's decisions and quota assignments was given to Joint Supervision and Enforcement Teams (JSETS) composed of representatives of Israeli and Palestinian water agencies.

Article 40 also called for the Palestinian population of West Bank and Gaza to receive 28.6 mcm/y in additional water for domestic use during the interim period. From its own water system, Israel committed to supply the Palestinians 9.5 mcm/y including 5 mcm/y for Gaza. However, this water would be sold to Palestinians at the real commercial rate rather than the subsidized rate paid by Israeli consumers. The remainder was to be developed by the PA from the eastern aquifer. Both sides agreed that the total future need of the Palestinians in the West Bank would come to between 70 and 80 mcm/y for both domestic and agricultural use. While it was agreed that this supply was to be developed by the Palestinians from the eastern aquifer and from other West Bank sources to be negotiated in the final-status treaty, the means by which they were to be developed was not addressed in the agreement. In order to assist the implementation of these provisions, Israel agreed to make available all the relevant water data collected by its various water agencies. Finally, Article 40 provides for a joint Israeli-Palestinian-American committee on water production and development known as the "Trilateral Committee" to facilitate projects agreed to by the JWC and provide American mediation on intractable questions regarding water development and management. Although the purpose of this final provision is not fully spelled out, it clearly reinforces the special position of the United States in the Middle East peace process and the hope on the part of both sides that this would facilitate funding for large water projects.(3)

Like every other element of Israeli-Palestinian accommodation, the Oslo II water accords have been denounced by critics of the peace process from both sides of the conflict. Israeli critics, particularly from the Likud party and its allies, see the accord as a "give away of Israeli water" that poses a serious threat to the quality and quantity of Israel's water supply in the future. Palestinian critics, generally outside the PA, denounce the accords for not specifying Palestinian water rights in the West Bank and for the slow pace at which these provisions are being implemented. Yet despite these misgivings and the obvious ambiguity of the agreement, the Oslo II water accords have provided the means for a Palestinian water infrastructure to take shape under the institution of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA). The accords have also established a mechanism in the JWC and its sub-committees for Israelis and Palestinians to meet regularly on a relatively equal basis to decide questions relating to their shared water supply.

The implementation process of the water accords of the Oslo II agreement deserves attention and assessment. Both achievements and shortcomings need to be examined and put in the perspective of the overall Israeli-Palestinian peace process. How much progress has been made and in what form? Where and why has implementation fallen short of expectation? What is the relevance of the implementation process to broader peace negotiations and the future of the Israeli-Palestinian region? These questions are important beyond the peace process. Drought is occurring with increasing frequency in the region; water scarcity and environmental damage from sewage pollution increases with each passing year.(4) These problems can only be solved through cooperation on water sharing and joint management of water resources and sewage control. Without a water agreement there will not only be no peace; an environmental disaster will become inevitable.


One of the most important achievements growing out of the Oslo II water accords has been the evolution of the PWA. Formally established in April 1995 prior to the agreement, the PWA was charged with the development and management of Palestinian water resources and the implementation of projects with the assistance of donor contributions aimed at accomplishing this task. Since the signing of the Oslo II agreement the following September, PWA officials have coordinated with their counterparts from the Israeli Water Commission (IWC) and other Israeli water agencies on the JWC and its various subcommittees to implement the terms of Article 40 to the letter. Beyond these immediate duties, the PWA is charged with planning and developing a new water policy and water infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. These responsibilities are enormous, and mishaps have not been few. With the technical and financial assistance of international donors, however, a Palestinian water system and institutional framework are taking shape.

Like much of the Palestinian Authority, the PWA is in the process of constructing institutions where none existed. Much of the water infrastructure in the Palestinian territories is in need of rehabilitation. As a result of the Israeli occupation following the 1967 war, many wells and facilities were destroyed and not rebuilt, distribution systems managed by municipalities suffered from severe leakage and inadequate income for repairs. As recently as 1995, over 50 percent of West Bank villages lacked piped water. The Israeli Civil Administration (military authorities) imposed strict quotas on water utilization and restrictions on the development of new facilities. The PWA operates on an emergency basis in an effort to transform this dire state of affairs. Nearly all its current efforts are aimed at planning and implementing (with aid from international donors) as many water-development projects as it can get approved by the JWC. Of top priority is improving the quantity and quality of the water allocated to the Palestinian people as quickly as possible.(5)

The PWA is not part of a ministry. It is an independent agency with its own budget, whose chairman is appointed by PA President Yasir Arafat and reports directly to him. Under the proposed institutional framework, water-sector policy making is the responsibility of the National Water Council (NWC) the president (chair), five ministers (Agriculture, Justice, Planning and International Cooperation, Local Government, and Industry) and a representative from the Palestinian universities.(6) By the end of 1998, the NWC had yet to formally meet. The PWA is administered by a chairman (Nabil Sharif) based in Gaza City and deputy chairman (Fadil Qawash) whose office is in Ramallah in the West Bank. Both men are political appointees from Tunis. The PWA is projected to include four separate departments, Water Resources and Planning, Regulatory, Technical and Administrative. These departments are evolving, and job descriptions are in the process of being developed and formalized.

The duties and responsibilities assigned to the PWA by the PA Law No. 2 for 1996 concerning its establishment are wide and varied, not unlike those of the IWC. They can be summarized as follows: manage and maintain all the water resources under PA control; regulate utilization through the issuing of permits and licenses for amounts of beneficial use of water; participate in preparing regional water plans, engage in efforts to develop new sources of water supply; prepare reports concerning water projects approved for implementation indicating cost and other matters of concern pertaining to such projects; and improve the centralization and publishing of hydrological data and other information on water resources.(7) The PWA, in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and other official parties, also participates in all water negotiations with Israel and in the implementation of Article 40 of the Oslo II Agreement on the JWC. Finally, the PWA is responsible for coordination of financial assistance from international donors for all water projects in the Palestinian territories.(8)

Integral to its operation is the West Bank Water Department (WBWD), which before Oslo II was an arm of the Israeli Civil Administration and remains financially connected to it. Today the WBWD reports to the PWA and is responsible for development and supply of water throughout much of that territory. The staff continues to be paid by the Israeli Civil Administration. Much of the water supplied to Palestinian towns and villages by the WBWD comes from Mekorot pipelines. Jewish settlements also receive most of their water through the WBWD, which remains responsible for collecting payments for these deliveries. Staff salaries are deducted from these revenues. In Gaza the water development and supply functions are performed by the Hydrology Department of the Ministry of Agriculture. Palestinian municipal water utilities remain public corporations separate from the PWA but are informally connected to it. Once an official water policy is adopted they will fall under its regulatory authority.

The greatest proportion of the work of the PWA is directed toward increasing the water supply available to the Palestinian people. Many of its other functions and activities are only gradually taking shape. Most personnel in the agency focus on planning and implementation of new water projects, getting approval for them from the JWC, and obtaining donor funding for construction. Guiding proposals through the JWC and administering the melange of the different types of financial assistance from over a dozen international donors puts a major strain on the staff. Job descriptions are only beginning to be written, while clear distinctions among the different sections and individual personnel are only now being delineated. In these efforts of bureaucratic specification, the PWA is further along than most other PA agencies and ministries.

Lacking its own water sector rules after years of occupation, the PWA has had to rely on rules and policies implemented by Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza), some dating back to Turkish rule, and, most significantly, on Israeli military orders imposed after 1967. One area where new policy initiatives are being given close scrutiny is water prices. The PWA continues to charge the same price for water as the Israeli Civil Administration did during occupation. Arriving at a fair price for water in Palestinian-controlled areas is complicated by the fact that Mekorot remains a major supplier of water to West Bank towns and villages through the WBWD and municipal utilities. In addition, 13 wells dug and developed by Jordan in the West Bank before 1967 remain under Mekorot control and supply water to both Palestinians and Jewish settlements. Under Article 40 of the Oslo II Agreement, as noted, Mekorot also supplies 5 mcm/y to the Gaza Strip. Palestinians claim that the price for the water is too high, more than Mekorot charges its own customers. Under the auspices of the JWC a subcommittee on tariffs has been established but has not been able to agree on a fair price for Mekorot water or on a final disposition of the 13 disputed West Bank wells.(9) The PA obtained funding from Norway for a water-tariff study by Norwegian and Palestinian experts, to develop a formula for generating fair water prices for both domestic and agricultural use based on region and source of supply.

Another area where the PA has been slow to initiate new rules has been the regulatory function of the PWA. In the Gaza Strip, there have been practically no restrictions on drilling new wells, even though they are further depleting an already over-utilized aquifer. In the West Bank, water quotas and permits established under the occupation remain in effect. Even in Area A (land under complete PA control) the PWA has not raised water utilization licenses. The PWA firmly supports the use of water meters and permit quotas to protect water resources from over-exploitation, but no PA law to that effect has been promulgated or new rules for licensing put into practice. As with the tariff study, the PWA has a parallel study under way examining proper rules for water utilization. Its regulatory department mainly focuses on seeing that existing utilization permits conform to the decisions of the JWC.

Although the current practice is to enforce existing rules, the PWA has prepared a comprehensive set of 15 principles which are intended to lay the basis for governing the water sector of a future Palestinian state: "Elements of a Water Policy."(10) These principles have yet to be coordinated with the views of other PA agencies, including the ministries of Agriculture, Industry or Planning, nor have they been presented to the Palestinian National Council. They primarily represent the position of the PWA and the thinking of the Palestinian scientific and academic water-sector establishment.

Reading "Elements of a Water Policy" one is struck by its similarity to Israel's 1959 Water Law. Most significant for future Palestinian water law is Article One: "All sources of water should be the property of the state." This principle rejects the existing Palestinian practice of private ownership of water sources by individuals or villages and accepts the guiding rule of Israeli water policy that water is public property to be regulated by the state. Although under Jordanian rule the Law of Natural Resources was promulgated in 1966 regulating water extraction in the West Bank, the law was not implemented before the 1967 war. During the Israeli occupation, Palestinian legal scholars insisted on the Ottoman legal custom that ownership of land included ownership of springs and wells on that land. But according to Fidal Qawash, deputy chairman of the PWA, the water law of the future Palestinian state will define "water rights" as "the right to use water, not to own it." All water resources will be owned by the public, and use regulated by the state. All resources will be metered, with quotas established based on need and availability. Individuals and villages that currently own sources of water will have the right to use a portion of it according to needs specified in their extraction licenses but will not be able to waste or sell the remaining portion of the water. Rather, the water will be transferred to the PWA for distribution to other licensed users. This proposal is sure to attract stiff opposition from Palestinian agricultural interests. But Mr. Qawash and other PWA officials believe that given the acute water shortages facing the region, this is the only equitable policy.

Other articles in the proposal describe water as a human right, suggest measures to insure optimal utilization of water resources, and put forth principles of water-sector management. All citizens have a right to good quality water at a cost they can afford but not the right to waste water or engage in pollution of resources. Water is established as an economic good that should be used in a manner compatible with sustainable development, environmental protection and economic productivity. As a result, agricultural users will have to adjust to a cost-efficiency basis relying more on marginal-quality water and improved irrigation technology. Pricing policies will be used to promote optimum utilization and economic efficiency. Development and management of water resources will be coordinated at the national level by the PWA in collaboration with relevant sectional authorities. But central coordination will be complemented by public participation in local planning and operation and by distribution by local utilities. At all administrative levels, water supply and waste-water management will be integrated. Finally, "Elements of a water policy" emphasizes pursuing Palestinian water rights and cooperation in international initiatives to identify and develop new water supplies. These proposals by the PWA are not final. Even if they are generally accepted by other relevant agencies within the PA, they will not be able to go into effect until the permanent status talks are completed and a final water agreement achieved with the Israelis. But this document brings Palestinian thinking more in line with that of Israeli moderates. When a peace treaty is signed, this should make regional cooperation in the water sector easier to accomplish.

Most of the activities of the PWA and most employee salaries are supported by donor contributions. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through its Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) has provided financial support for policy-planning and data-gathering units within the PWA since its founding. The PA also entered into an agreement with Norway in early 1996 that provides institutional support including salaries for most PWA personnel. The aim of the grant is to retain trained specialists and continue to build institutional capacity. Other international donor grants also provide training for PWA personnel, including one from GTZ, the development-aid corporation of the German government. In the future, PWA financial resources are expected to come primarily from the general budget and fees on water-sector licenses and concessions rather than grants from international development agencies.

The PWA is still in its infancy. It has few decision-making powers of its own. Its main function is coordination of international donor projects for water development and distribution. Planning is mostly on a short-term emergency basis; policy initiatives remain trial-and-error. In the absence of a peace agreement, serious and reliable long-term master plans are out of the question. The continued occupation of much of the West Bank, Jewish settlement activity and the absence of a peace settlement providing a definition of Palestinian water rights keep the PWA from performing its statutory role. Yet it has been quite effective in organizing the contributions of international aid agencies and in building institutional technical capacity for the future. Moreover, it is a primary connecting link to the Israeli government with nearly daily contact with their water specialists on the JWC and its subcommittees and with the Israeli Foreign Ministry through the implementation of projects agreed upon in the multilateral negotiations. The PWA is emerging not only as one of the most effectively run PA agencies, but one with much potential for building trust in the context of a future peace agreement.


In the wake of the Oslo II agreement in October 1995 representatives of the PA, Israel, the World Bank, 29 donor states and ten international aid organizations met in Paris to develop a renewed program of development assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. At a similar meeting in 1993 following the Oslo I accord, donors pledged some $2.1 billion (later rising to $2.5 billion) over a period of five years to support Palestinian self-government. Of the total, one-fifth, or $500 million, came from the United States. The aims of the fund were to support Palestinian economic and social development in the West Bank and Gaza, create infrastructure, and foster Palestinian administrative capacity. It was hoped that achieving these goals would not only build support for the peace process among Palestinians but provide the institutional capacity for sustainable economic development.

To channel such a large amount of money in a short period required the establishment of ad hoc and permanent institutions.(11) Two groupings were formed to provide overall direction for donor contributions, the Consultative Group and the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee. While the former focused strictly on coordinating donor programs, the latter acted as a political steering committee with close connections to the multilateral track in the peace process. In each grouping the United States, the EU and the World Bank play major roles. A number of U. N. organizations including the UNDP have been conduits for donor contributions to specific projects. On the Palestinian side, the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) was established in 1994 to track and channel aid to specific projects. The PA has complained about the slowness of delivery of the promised assistance, while international donors deride the neo-patrimonial style, nepotism and corruption of many of the PA institutions. But by early 1998, over $1.8 billion of the amount committed to the PA had been disbursed.(12) A significant amount of international donor contributions, over $365 million or about 15 percent, has been committed to water and sanitation projects. Of this amount, over half ($192 million) had been disbursed by 1998.(13) Over 75 projects were in the planning or implementing stages, and over a third of these had received full commitment from donor nations and aid agencies. Others projects were under consideration but without committed funds. This level of institutional development and financial expenditure provides grounds for optimism when viewing the Palestinian water situation. Among the largest international donors to water and sanitation projects are the United States, the European Union, Germany, Norway, France, Italy and the World Bank, although several additional countries are involved on a lesser scale.

With the exception of USAID, international donors -- whether national aid organizations, such as Germany's GTZ, or multinational agencies like the World Bank -- do not have direct contact with the JWC. International donors see their role as assisting in getting projects implemented once they are approved. International donors do not get involved in politics but work within the framework of the agreement and only commit funds when a permit has been issued. On occasion, a project may receive a tentative commitment without a permit, but such projects are judged to be economically and politically feasible as well. Normally involvement begins when donors are presented a list of projects by the PWA or Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. They examine likely projects that they consider most urgent, most likely to be accomplished, and which fit their own particular requirements. Then the potential donors do their own feasibility studies. The position of USAID is distinct among international aid institutions because of the special U.S. status as broker of the peace process and member of the Trilateral Committee on water issues.

The types and goals of water projects proposed and funded differ sharply between the West Bank and Gaza. The focus in Gaza is on improving water quality through rehabilitation of water and sewer networks or building new ones where none exist and constructing wastewater treatment facilities. Small brackish-water desalination plants are in the construction stages, and others are planned. In Gaza the aim is to reduce or at least delay the increasing deterioration of the water supply from continued over-utilization. Unlike in the West Bank, water projects in Gaza need not get the approval of the JWC but Israel continues to exercise some degree of influence.(14) In the West Bank donor projects have generally been aimed at increasing water supply through drilling wells, constructing delivery systems to villages without piped water, and developing an accurate database on available water resources in the eastern aquifer. Examination of the contrasting roles and approaches taken by USAID and UNDP illustrates the activities of international aid agencies in the water sector in the West Bank and Gaza.

The signing of the Oslo Agreement (Declaration of Principles) in September 1993 brought about a drastic change in America' s approach to assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.(15) While the U. S. government had been providing aid to Palestinians in the occupied territories for over two decades prior to Oslo, its approach was low key and minimal. Implementation was primarily in the hands of American private voluntary organizations (PVOs) such as American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), many of whose activities involved rehabilitating Palestinian rural water systems. In 1975, for instance, American foreign-aid spending in the occupied Palestinian territories amounted to only $1 million. Since Oslo, U. S. foreign assistance has grown substantially and become highly visible. It is mostly managed by the State Department through the USAID mission in Israel. In contrast to the meager funding of the previous period, at the first donor conference in October 1993, the United States pledged to contribute $500 million to Palestinian development over the following five years. This aid has not been untainted by political controversy, including accusations of undue Israeli influence through its close relationships with top State Department figures.16 Yet American economic assistance has begun to flow to the PA and projects are being implemented.

The water sector is a central focus of this new upscale American foreign-assistance program to the West Bank and Gaza. More than half of the $75 million per year committed by USAID between 1994-98 went to improving water resources. In 1998, $58 million of the $75 million committed was budgeted for water projects. The U.S. government has taken an active role on the Trilateral Committee, and USAID has not hesitated to push for water projects not strictly within the Oslo II framework if they made good economic sense, even when it has meant interjecting itself into Israeli politics. USAID projects have been large and aimed at some of the most pressing water-sector needs in each territory. While USAID activities have been subject to some criticism by Palestinian officials for an excess of emphasis on feasibility studies and for serving American economic interests in the issuing of construction contracts, tangible benefits are clearly resulting from the projects. The best example and most important of these projects are the rehabilitation of the stormwater and sewage-collection systems in Gaza City and well-drilling and water distribution in the Hebron-Bethlehem area of the West Bank.(17)

In the case of Gaza City, in 1995 USAID began financing a massive cleaning and replacement of approximately 50 kilometers of stormwater culverts, sewer lines, renovation of the Sheik Radwan reservoir and pump station, and improvements in drainage systems. Costing $40 million, the project was actually a follow-up to a much smaller effort to repair broken and leaking pipes funded by the U.S. government through UNWRA prior to the Oslo agreements. The current project is contracted to the American construction firm of Metcalf and Eddy and aimed at finalizing the upgrading and reconstructing of the entire sewer system and extending it into areas of Gaza City previously without sewage facilities. An important element of the project is the separation of the sewer system from the rain-water system. In the previously existing system the two were mixed so that when it rained the sewer system would back up resulting in sewage flooding in the city and soaking into the aquifer. The systems are now separate and the Sheik Radwan reservoir is receiving only rainwater rather than a combination of rainwater and sewage. Improving the efficiency of the sewer system with the replacement of broken and leaking pipes created an overload on the city's existing sewage treatment plant and, as a result, USAID amended the project to add a new plant to the plan that will double or perhaps triple wastewater treatment capacity. This addition added about $5 million to the original plan, but the entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 1999.

In the West Bank, the top priority of USAID has been to increase the water supply for the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem. Along with Jenin, these cities have the worst water-supply problems in the West Bank. During the dry summer months (even without the severe drought of 1998-99), these cities receive only a trickle of water. Houses in Bethlehem may receive pumped water once a week, while in Hebron the situation is even more dire. In this case, USAID and the PWA gained approval from the JWC for drilling four wells and constructing transmission pipelines, pumping stations and major reservoirs for both cities. Again an American firm, Camp, Dresser, and McKee, were contractors for the project. The completed project will supply 6-8 mcm/y of additional water, nearly doubling the current utilization capacity of the two cities and costing about $35 million. In the JWC permit process (discussed below) the USAID ran into problems with its original plan. One well site in the Bethlehem area was rejected by the Civil Administration because it was "too near" a Jewish settlement. Appeals to the Trilateral Committee and even by the U.S. ambassador to Ariel Sharon, minister of infrastructure, and Yitzhak Mordechai, minister of defense, were to no avail. USAID had to move the site of the well and add an additional well (raising the total to four) and raising the cost of overall project because no single alternative site could match the yield of the original. At present these four wells and one drilled by Israel near Jenin (negotiated in the Oslo II accords) are the only new wells resulting from that agreement. Others are in the planning stages, and several of these involve USAID.

The UNDP has been operating in the West Bank and Gaza since 1980, following a U.N. General Assembly resolution establishing the Program Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP) with the aim of improving the economic and social conditions of Palestinians in the occupied territories.(18) But without a Palestinian counterpart organization its efforts to provide technical and capital assistance were small-scale. UNDP/PAPP became involved in the water sector of the occupied territories in 1987, but this was only a minor component of even these meager activities. As with USAID, the Oslo agreements brought about fundamental changes in the size and approach of UNDP's operation in the West Bank and Gaza. Foremost was that it now had a recognized host counterpart, the PA, to work with in formulating and implementing development programs. Similarly, UNDP's project expenditures (both its own and donor resources) more than tripled, from about $15 million in 1992 to a high of $50 million in 1996, although its budget fluctuates from year to year depending on the status of donor-funded projects. Watersector activities also became a significant component of UNDP's operations, accounting for 19 percent of the 1998 budget. UNDP has also become the largest and most active international aid agency implementing water networks in rural areas of the West Bank and Gaza. These activities are expected to grow in the future.

UNDP takes a quite different approach from USAID in its water sector and other development activities in the West Bank and Gaza. First, far from having a special relationship with Israel, UNDP, like other U.N. agencies working in the occupied territories, must operate under the cloud of Israeli-U.N. hostility and mistrust. UNDP works strictly within the framework of the Oslo II water accords. Unlike USAID, it does not get involved in the permit process. Only when the JWC and Civil Administration have issued all the necessary permits does it take on a water project. UNDP is primarily an implementing institution, receiving contributions from donor nations for projects and implementing them in partnership with Palestinian institutions such as the PWA. In this role UNDP receives funding from many of the nations involved in Palestinian development, including the United States through USAID, but Japan has been its major source of contributions, providing over half of all agency expenditure in the West Bank and Gaza since 1994. UNDP is also unique among international aid institutions in the Palestinian territories because it is a donor as well as an implementing agency. In 1998, about 7 percent of its $30 million budget came from its own resources.

With its much lower funding base, UNDP water-sector projects have been on a much smaller scale than those advanced by USAID. Most of these water and sanitation projects fall into the $1-5 million range and involve providing water-supply systems to villages where none existed in the past or the upgrading and rehabilitation of water-supply and distribution systems in sections of urban centers where network deterioration is the most serious. For example, in Khan Unis UNDP is initiating a substantial improvement of the water supply and wastewater systems in cooperation with the PWA through a $5 million contribution from Japan.(19) This project also includes upgrading and extending the watersupply network to four villages southeast of Khan Unis. A similar limited water-supply-system rehabilitation project has also been undertaken in the casbah of Nablus.

One of the most important aims of the UNDP in the West Bank and Gaza and one that also distinguishes its approach from the approach of USAID is the development of local institutional capacity. UNDP's goal in all of its development efforts, including the water sector, is to increase the technical and management capacities of Palestinian ministries, municipalities, village councils and NGOs and not to substitute for them. Wherever possible, UNDP utilizes Palestinian expertise and locally available resources. As early as March 1994, UNDP launched the Water Resources Action Program (WRAP) with the purpose of making a body of local water specialists available to the PA on a permanent basis. With establishment of the PWA, this team was integrated into the agency, and UNDP has continued to pay their salaries. Only when local or expatriate expertise is not available are outside specialists utilized but they are also expected to train local personnel with whom they work. In addition, all infrastructure rehabilitation projects are implemented through private-sector Palestinian contractors and NGOs. When possible, all procurements are made from Palestinian suppliers. Such procedures insure that projects not only contribute to development and technical capacity but create employment and capital investment. The goal is to provide the Palestinians with the tools for economic and social development to sustain them beyond the drying-up of donor funding or the break-down of the peace process.


While the process of implementing the Oslo II water accords is contributing to institution-building and to the flow of much-needed international donor funds into the Palestinian territories, the average Palestinian has experienced very little improvement in the quantity or quality of the water available for household consumption or to irrigate fields. Of the 28.6 mcm/y of water recognized in Oslo II to be an immediate need of the Palestinian people, only the 9.5 mcm to be provided by Israel has begun to flow to them. Even this meager amount was curtailed in the summer of 1999 because of drought conditions throughout the region. For this water, Palestinians pay the full commercial rate. In contrast, households in nearby Jewish settlements have not had their water supply cut and pay a subsidized rate amounting to about half the Palestinian cost. PA water projects funded with donor support have yet to reach the point of delivery to Palestinian households four years after the signing of the interim accords. The permit process of the JWC is slow and cumbersome, requiring numerous stages of review and concurrence, and the Israeli Civil Administration often opposes the location of wells or other proposed water facilities in territory under its jurisdiction.

The JWC provides the umbrella institution for the joint management of West Bank water resources envisioned in Article 40 of the Oslo II agreement. In accordance with the agreement, both Israel and the PA are to have equal representation on the committee. It is co-chaired by the Israeli water comissioner, currently Meir Ben-Meir, and the chairman of the PWA, Nabil Sharif. The committee goes over proposed water projects and gives its approval or disapproval. Those approved are issued permits for construction. Since all projects must be approved by consensus, Israel retains a veto over all Palestinian water development in the West Bank. Theoretically this also gives the PA a veto over construction of new Israeli water projects in the West Bank. However, since the water system for Jewish settlements is in place and nearly all the new project proposals are Palestinian in origin and need Israeli concurrence, Palestinian power within the joint-management structure is muted.(20)

Early in its deliberations, the JWC divided into four subcommittees: technical, prices, legal, and water/wastewater. The technical subcommittee deals with the feasibility of new projects for producing additional water such as drilling wells and constructing pipelines. As noted above, the price subcommittee has been working on pricing formulas for water transfer between Israel and the Palestinian controlled areas. The legal subcommittee deals with questions of law arising out of the process, while the water/wastewater subcommittee researches ways and means of improving sewage reclamation and disposal. The technical subcommittee is by far the most important and active of the subcommittees. If it does not give its approval to a proposal, it generally goes no further unless, because of extraordinary circumstances, the project is appealed to the JWC or the Trilateral Committee, of which the United States is a member. The technical subcommittee also meets regularly, sometimes weekly. Meetings of the other subcommittees are infrequent.

The process of project approval is extremely complex and infused with bureaucratic obstructions that can delay or derail it. Some Palestinian and international aid-agency personnel even went so far as to comment in interviews that the process was more complicated now than during full Israeli occupation. The process normally begins with the development of a proposal -- for instance, a new well -- by the PWA which then submits the project to the JWC. At this point, international donors, with the exception of USAID, will not be involved in the process although they may have given tentative support to the project if a permit is issued. The next stage of the approval process is consideration by the technical subcommittee. Once its approval is given the project must then be considered by the Israeli Hydrological Service (IHS), which determines whether the proposed water to be extracted is available and will not cause a depletion of Israel's water resources. If the IHS approves the proposed well, the proposal then goes back to the JWC. If it is to be dug in territory under complete PA control (Area A) or Palestinian civil control (Area B), the JWC will usually issue a permit. When controversy is not involved, a telephone call between Meir Ben-Meir and Nabil Sharif suffices in place of a meeting of the full committee. But because of delays at one level or another, the process is never less than three months and in most instances much longer.

The permit process is actually seldom this easy. First, permits are issued only for very specific projects, and permits must be issued for each stage. For example, once a permit is issued to drill a well, others will then be needed to construct the road to get the equipment to the site, and for a building to house the workers drilling the well. Each of these actions must go through the process described above separately, not as a package. Later separate permits will be required for specific sections of pipeline to supply each location receiving water from the well and for each pumping station and other facilities along the route. Project proposals to supply adjacent villages with water from spur pipelines off a main line require individual permits for the spur line to each village and for other facilities that may be needed to complete the connection. Requiring numerous permits for the same project significantly lengthens the time to complete the project, even when no political or hydrological disputes are involved.

A second impediment in the process is the fact that under the Oslo II agreement new Palestinian water projects, with the exception of one new well in the Jenin area, may only utilize water from the eastern basin of the mountain aquifer. This requirement presents great difficulties for the PWA in its efforts to supply water to villages and towns such as Jenin, situated long distances from existing or proposed Palestinian wells in the eastern aquifer. In response to this difficulty, the PA and USAID have made requests to the JWC for permits to drill additional wells in the northeast and westerns basins of the mountain aquifer based on studies indicating that these would not pose a threat to the quality or quantity of Israel's existing water supplies. The Israeli side on the JWC has consistently refused to approve any permits for new wells in these aquifers.

The process becomes most burdensome and time-consuming when the proposed Palestinian water project is to be in Area C of the West Bank (under both Israeli security and civil control). In August 1999, this area constituted about 70 percent of the territory of the West Bank and included, of course, all Jewish settlements.(21) Unfortunately, most of the land area above the eastern basin of the mountain aquifer into which Palestinian water projects are confined is also in Area C. Projects approved by both the technical subcommittee and the IHS on technical merit that cross even a tiny portion of Area C must get the concurrence of the Israel Civil Administration before final approval of a permit by the JWC. According to officials of both the PWA and international aid agencies, this is the stage where projects are most likely to run into difficulties and delays.

For each of the numerous permits required for any project in Area C, each of 14 different departments in the civil administration must sign off. A project can be rejected for any number of reasons. For instance, a well or pipeline may be too near a settlement or military base and considered a security risk; the roads department may have a by-pass road planned for the area; the forestry department may decide that it will result in the cutting down of too many trees; the archaeological department may find it a danger to yet unexplored ancient sites; or, as some charge, Israel has identified certain areas that they never intend to give back to the Palestinians and do not want Palestinian facilities in them. There is a district civilian liaison (IDF colonel) whose job it is to coordinate with all the departments in the permit process. But it often takes several months before all the approvals or disapprovals are returned. When permission is not given, negotiations begin to meet the concerns of the disapproving official, perhaps locating the well or other construction several kilometers from the original proposed site. Sometimes compromises cannot be reached and the project is rejected. In any event, a middle-level bureaucrat in the civil administration can block or delay a Palestinian water project for reasons important to him alone. Once all departments give their approval, a permit is issued by the civil administration. Even with consent from all departments, the process often takes a year or more.

As established by Article 40 of the Oslo II agreement, the enforcement mechanisms of the JWC are the JSETS. There are five teams consisting of Israeli and Palestinian members whose job it is to measure static water levels of wells, extraction and water quality as well as to monitor spring flows and discharges throughout the West Bank on a monthly basis. These teams make inspections somewhere in the West Bank each day except Friday and Saturday (the religious holy days of Muslims and Jews respectively) following an agenda and schedule jointly arranged by Danny Adar, director of Mekorot operations in the West Bank at the civil administration, and Taher Nassereddin, Palestinian director of the WBWD. These joint inspection activities got off to an awkward beginning, and problems had to be worked out in meetings of the JWC. To take one example, Israeli team members at first would not go on inspection tours with Palestinian counterparts unless escorted by Israeli soldiers, whose presence in Palestinian villages generally resulted in tension and sometimes confrontation. Timing and meeting sites also caused problems. But by the spring of 1998, inspections were said to be going smoothly and a good working relationship existed between Israelis and Palestinians involved with the teams.

A major concern of Palestinian water specialists both before and since Oslo II has been the amount water consumed by Jewish settlements and military bases in both the West Bank and Gaza. The Oslo II agreement theoretically gave the Palestinians an equal right to monitor Israeli water utilization in the West Bank. At first the JSETS did not measure Israeli water meters or enter Israeli water facilities, only Palestinian ones; nor did Israeli authorities turn over data on extraction licenses for Jewish settlements in the West Bank as agreed in Oslo II. However, starting January 1, 1997, JSETS began monitoring Israeli wells in the West Bank. Palestinian inspectors have even accompanied Israeli members of the teams into Jewish settlements to read water meters. Israeli military installations remain off-limits to Palestinians, but Israeli team members read the meters and share the information with the Palestinians. Extraction licensing data for Jewish settlements in the West Bank have yet to be given to the PWA, but Israeli representatives on the JWC have promised to provide it. The PWA also has begun to compile accurate data on water consumption by Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But, like the Israeli water data for these settlements, it has not been made public.(22)

The continuing critical water shortages in the city of Jenin (which means "city of gardens" in Arabic) in the northern West Bank illustrates both the problems facing the PWA and the shortcomings of the Oslo II water accords. Recognizing the need for more water in the region, Israel agreed to drill an additional well in the area capable of providing 1.4 mcm/y.(23) But in the period immediately following the transfer of the city from Israeli to Palestinian control in the fall of 1995, chaos and disorganization reigned. Without the presence of effective authority, residents of the city and surrounding area, desperate for water, began digging primitive wells on their own as soon as the Israelis withdrew. In all, 45 wells were dug before the PA began to enforce its control over the city. Through helicopter surveillance, Israel quickly became aware of the existence of the wells and demanded their demolition at the first meeting of the JWC. Desiring to maintain compliance with the agreement, especially at such an early stage, the PA destroyed the unauthorized wells in December 1995, leaving the city of 38,000 people without sufficient water to meet most basic needs.

For its part, in 1996 Israel dug the well promised in the Oslo II accord, but by the summer of 1999 no water had begun to flow from its bore to Palestinian homes. While Israel paid for drilling the well, it supplied neither pumps nor pipeline to transport the water. These have been left to the PWA and international aid agencies to provide. More troubling for Palestinians is the fact that the well can produce only about half the amount of additional water needed to meet the needs of the city and a cluster of eleven surrounding villages, which must rely on rainwater cisterns and tanker trucks for water. In 1996, USAID undertook the responsibility of building a main pipeline to these villages and internal distribution networks within each village. Other donors working through UNDP are constructing pipelines to connect Jenin to the new well. In order to meet the water needs of both city and villages, USAID proposed that it be allowed to drill a second well of roughly equal output capacity. USAID and the PWA produced studies suggesting that a second well would not reduce the flow of the northeast aquifer in Israel. Israeli representatives on the JWC rejected the request, stating that its own studies demonstrated the northeast basin was already utilized to its full capacity but they would not produce these studies to USAID. Israel did offer to connect the Mekorot pipeline to the new village networks and sell them water at the commercial rate. But in order to do this, according to persons close to the dispute, Mekorot planned to drill a second new well of its own on the Israeli side of the Green Line, pump it uphill and charge the Palestinians for the additional costs. Israel would, of course, then also control the tap. USAID and the PWA rejected this proposal and took the matter to the Trilateral Committee.

The Trilateral Committee only meets when all parties believe there is a need and when the matter involves a political dispute, as in the Jenin case, rather than mere questions of a technical nature. The U.S. representative on the committee has been Chuck Larson, the top State Department expert on Middle East water issues, while Israel is represented by the water commissioner and the PA by the chairman of the PWA. Other top water officials from the three sides also attend. At a meeting of the committee held in the summer of 1997, Israel refused to acquiesce to its objections, and the matter remains to be resolved. Jenin's available water remains meager and water installations uncompleted. But both USAID and the PWA intend to continue to pursue the matter, in light of the great distance and expense of transporting water to Jenin from the eastern aquifer.


The issue of how to solve the problem of untreated wastewater in the West Bank is a major political obstacle in the path of a more effective implementation of the Oslo II water accords and a danger to the region's environment. No one disputes the fact that a great amount of raw sewage from both Palestinians and Jewish settlements flows down wadis and is polluting the mountain aquifer. The question is whether to approach the problem jointly or separately. This is where politics intrudes. Officials in the Netanyahu government used the issue to deride and attack PA compliance with the Oslo II water accords.

Several cabinet ministers in the former Israeli government or their spokespersons attacked the PA and Palestinian municipalities for what they claimed to be deliberate channeling of raw sewage into wadis where it flows toward Israeli population centers and pollutes the aquifer. In May 1997, minister of national infrastructure, Ariel Sharon, referred to such actions as "sewage intifada" and part of deliberate and intensive efforts to violate the Oslo II agreement by the Palestinians. A spokesman for the ministry, citing the example of the Hebron municipality, said that the Palestinians have purification facilities but are intentionally not using them. Other West Bank cities including Qalkilya and Ramallah were also cited for pouring untreated sewage into local streams that flow across the Green Line into Israel.(24) While not disputing that untreated sewage from Palestinian municipalities seeps into the environment, PWA officials deny that these occurrences were intentionally aimed at Israel (they claim the water in the mountain aquifer is theirs to begin with) and that Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are equally guilty, if not more so, in polluting the shared water supply. They further point out that they are working with international donors in the planning of wastewater treatment facilities.(25)

Politics aside, Israeli environmental planners argue that the most efficient and cheapest means of dealing with the sewage problem resulting from the former Likud-led government policy of rapidly increasing the settler population in the West Bank is to cooperate with Palestinian municipalities, thereby obtaining international donor support for joint wastewater treatment schemes. The great danger, as they see it, is the contamination of the aquifer; cooperation is the quickest and surest means of dealing with the problem. In this perspective, most international donor agencies generally side with Israel's position. In their view, "sewage is sewage," so why have separate treatment plants in close proximity to each other. While their mission is development assistance for the Palestinian people, the problem is a regional one so they believe the solution should be accomplished through joint efforts. In one well-known case, raw sewage from both Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, as well as from Bethlehem and nearby Jewish settlements is running down the Wadi Kidron into the Judean desert. The German development agency (GTZ) has offered to provide $8 million for a sewage-treatment plant that would alleviate much of the problem. The Israelis readily agreed to the German proposal and sent an official request to the German government to initiate the project. The Palestinians rejected it outright, thus killing the proposal for the time being. Similar problems have arisen with wastewater treatment proposals in the Hebron-Kiryat Arba settlement area and elsewhere in the West Bank.

PA officials look at the problem from a a political perspective. While willing to cooperate with Israeli communities inside the Green Line on sanitation and other environmental problems, they refuse as a matter of principle to participate in joint efforts with Jewish settlements, including those in East Jerusalem. For PA officials, agreeing to joint sanitation facilities with Jewish settlements, even though this may be the most effective means for alleviating the problem, would be tantamount to recognition of the right of the settlements to exist in the West Bank and Gaza. As they see it, the money is intended for Palestinian development, and joint proposals are another Israeli trick to get something for nothing from the Palestinians. Palestinians respond that only after the final-status talks are completed and the question of settlements resolved can joint wastewater plants be built without controversy. For them, "sewage is politics."


There are thus different perspectives on implementation of the Oslo II water accords. Clearly progress is being made and implementation of the agreement moving forward, if not always to the satisfaction of Palestinians and Israelis alike or to the international donor organizations. But both parties appear to be living up to the letter of the provisions despite occasional accusations of bad faith directed at the other side. Palestinian and joint-management infrastructure is being built, although the latter is clearly only at a rudimentary stage. Palestinians and Israelis working to implement the water accords are in daily contact, if not in person then over the telephone. Top officials in the PWA or the IWC and Mekorot may adhere to their political agendas, but middle-level officials on both sides stress the fact that they have a good working relationship on a personal basis with their counterparts. Trust is being developed. International donors are contributing to the enhancement and rehabilitation of the Palestinian water supply and sanitation systems, however, at a pace that has yet to make a major change in the lives of most Palestinians. Still, what has been achieved here indicates that Israelis and Palestinians can work together.

Yet there is a negative view of the implementation process as well. Both Palestinians and Israelis have leveled strong criticism of what they see as a lack of real progress resulting from the accords. As noted above, Israeli criticisms have come in at the political-level from right-wing politicians or cabinet members who have opposed the Oslo peace process from the beginning. At the bureaucratic-level, Israel officially views the work of the JWC and the implementation of Oslo II water accords to be proceeding in an effective manner. In the view of officials with Mekorot and the water commission, this is particularly true at the technical and professional level. According to Shmuel Cantor, the Israeli co-chair of the technical subcommittee of the JWC, "Both parties are working hard to make the agreement work. The process [on the technical committee] is very simple, the Palestinians raise their proposals and we raise ours and we then try to arrive at consensus." In his view, the process was "very effective."(26) While this comment was clearly for approbation, there is no doubt that the Netanyahu government and the water technicians they appointed to these committees felt they were getting the best results they could under what they considered a bad agreement for Israel. By following Article 40 to the letter, Israeli representatives retain veto power over all Palestinian water projects in the West Bank and can block any they consider even a remote threat to Israel's current level of water use even when the project is strongly supported by the United States.(27)

In contrast, Palestinian water specialists, both inside the PA and working for private NGOs and international donor organizations, universally condemn the agreement for the protracted nature of the permit process it established. They point out that few Palestinians have experienced any tangible results. Delaying the process only makes the problems greater, whether delays result from donor insistence on feasibility studies or the complexity of the permit process. Not only do Palestinians decry the fact that the JWC gives Israel veto power over what Palestinians believe to be their own water; some believe that Israel is deliberately slowing down the permit process in order to sabotage the agreement's implementation. They saw these actions as one more tool employed by the Netanyahu government to undermine the peace process. One West Bank municipal water administrator referred to the inertia of the JWC "as a tool for Israel to play political games." Another Palestinian water NGO director said, "The agreement was no solution but psychotherapy to keep the Palestinians happy while the Israelis kept the water." For these Palestinians, the actions of the JWC, rather than building trust as intended, are creating tension and hatred. While other Palestinians working in the water sector, particularly those within the PWA, are not as critical of Israeli motives, all are concerned about the slow rate of progress and the frustration it is.

Palestinian water specialists also raise other complaints primarily the continuing high cost of water delivered by Mekorot. As noted, negotiations are in progress in the JWC price subcommittee to arrive at an agreed-upon price, but at present Palestinians pay the commercial rate, whereas Jewish settlers pay a highly subsidized price. To some Palestinian critics, Israel has succeeded in "separating resources from supply." When Jenin, Hebron or some other Palestinian town suffers from the lack of water, Israel will offer to supply the amount of water needed (at the commercial rate) and continue to control the source. And the agreement does not cover agriculture, which continues to consume about 75 percent of the water available to the Palestinians. Finally, Palestinians protest that Israel has not always complied with the tenets of the agreement. Israeli authorities have done little about settler violations of the permit process, nor has adequate Israeli water data promised to the Palestinians in the accord been turned over. The accord states "relevant data", and Israeli authorities have chosen to interpret that paragraph strictly. Instead of turning over their entire data bank to the PWA, the IWC responds to individual requests made through the Joint Water' Committee relevant to specific projects.

Beyond the perceived rights and wrongs of the implementation of the accord is the growing deterioration of the physical environment from over-utilization of scarce water resources and spreading sewage pollution in the West Bank and Gaza. Water conditions in Palestinian territories have become worse since the signing of the Oslo II agreement in September 1995. During the hot dry summers common in the region, many West Bank towns and villages go without water from the tap for weeks at a time and are forced to survive on expensive water from tanker trucks at about 15 times the price supplied by the municipalities. At the same time, nearby Jewish settlements enjoy full service from Mekorot, even during severe drought. Particularly hard hit have been the residents of Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin and surrounding villages and refugee camps, all areas awaiting completion of new wells and delivery systems promised in the Oslo II agreement. In the summer of 1998, for example, Deheishe refugee camp and parts of Hebron received water from the tap only once every 20 to 30 days.(28)

But water conditions remain the most severe and dangerous to human health in the Gaza Strip. Since the PA took control of 70 percent of Gaza in spring of 1994, over 1500 illegal wells have been dug by Palestinians farmers desperate for water. The PA is unable or unwilling to prevent these actions, which have further degraded a situation already considered a disaster. The quality of the water pumped from parts of the aquifer is dangerous to human health. Abdul-Rahaman Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, has gone so far as to refer to Gaza as a "dead baby." Most Israeli and PA officials recognize that any long-term solution to Gaza's water problem must come from outside the territory in the form of transfers from either the West Bank, Israel and perhaps Turkey or from massive investment in desalination. The selection of options must await the outcome of a political settlement.

The drought of 1998 and 1999 and resulting water shortages indicate that an environmental disaster that could devastate the region is a looming possibility. Such an occurrence can only be averted by a long-term cooperative agreement on water-sharing and joint management that should include not only Israel and the PA but Jordan and possibly Syria and Lebanon. Despite its obvious shortcomings, the ongoing implementation of the Oslo II water accords indicates that between Israelis and Palestinians there is a basis upon which this can be accomplished. Certainly many political questions still have to be decided with regard to the water issue: Palestinian water rights in the West Bank, Jewish settler access to water from the eastern basin of the mountain aquifer, prices charged by each government for water, measures to add new water resources to the region, and the myriad of other questions left over from the interim agreement. These can only be made in the context of a permanent peace agreement. With the new political leadership in Israel and the Sharm el-Sheik Memorandum, there is now hope that these issues can be resolved.

(1) Most of the information for this article was obtained by the author from interviews with officials with the Israeli Water Commission, Mekorot, the Israeli government-owned water company, the PWA, and with employees of a variety of international aid agencies during the summer of 1998, when the author was a visiting scholar at Birzeit University in the West Bank. Unless otherwise noted in the text, interviewees have not been cited in the endnotes.

(2) Elaine Fletcher, "Israel, PLO make deal on West Bank water," The San Francisco Examiner, September 21, 1995, p. A-19.

(3) On the intentions of the parties regarding the establishment of the Trilateral Committee see Steve Rodin, "Divided Waters - Part II" Jerusalem Post, September 1, 1995.

(4) By the spring of 1999, drought conditions in the region had reached such a dangerous point that Israel's Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan declared a state of emergency allowing Water Commissioner Meir Ben-Meir to reduce water allocations to Israeli farmers up to 40 percent. Decreasing water supply also forced Israel to reduce the amount of water transferred to Jordan under the 1994 peace treaty between the two states and to the Palestinian territories under the Oslo II agreement. By summer Israeli, experts had begun to describe the drought as the worst since the establishment of the state. Rebecca Trounson, "Water Shortage Creates Tension for Israel, Arabs," Los Angles Times, April 18, 1999, p. 1; and David Rudge, "Expert: Water Shortage Worse Than Appears," Jerusalem Post, July 6, 1999, p. 5.

(5) Interviews with Fadil Qawash, deputy head of the PWA in Ramallah and with Ali Shaat. deputy minister of planning and international coordination in Gaza, June 1998.

(6) Palestinian National Authority, Law No. 2 of 1996: Concerning the Establishment of the PWA (Issued by President Arafat January 18, 1996). English translation.

(7) Palestinian National Authority, Law No. 2 For 1996: Concerning the Establishment of the PWA, art. 4.

(8) Palestinian National Authority, Resolution No. 66 of 1997: Concerning the Internal Regulations of the PWA (issued by President Arafat June 5, 1997), art. 5. English translation.

(9) According to a Palestinian representative on the subcommittee, their Israeli counterparts have been neither serious nor fair in price-structure scenarios they have been offering the Palestinians. The cost formulas are broken down into three components: constant (capital investment and employee cost), energy and variable (all other cost), each covering a percentage of the total cost to Israel. When the Palestinians find an error in one component, Israelis representatives come up with a new scenario changing the weighted cost between the components but keeping the total cost the same. In the summer of 1998, the subcommittee was studying the fifth scenario offered by Israel. Israel also wants to increase the price agreed to after the Oslo II agreement for water from both Mekorot wells inside the Green Line and the 13 Palestinian wells it continues to control in the West Bank. In order to obtain the Israeli perspective on this deadlock, requests for interviews were made with the Civil Administration, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Mekorot. In each case, I was refused interviews with people knowledgeable on the matter. A Mekorot spokesman refused to answer questions on the issue.

(10) Submitted by Nabil Sharif, chairman of the PWA, to President Arafat, January 1996. Included in Palestinian National Authority, PWA, Background Information.

(11) For an overall assessment of the process of international assistance to the West Bank and Gaza through 1995, see Rex Brynen, "International Aid to the West Bank and Gaza: A Primer," Journal of Palestine Studies 25, Winter, 1996, pp. 46-53; and Rex Brynen, "Buying Peace? A Critical Assessment of International Aid to the West Bank and Gaza," Journal of Palestine Studies 25, Spring, 1996, pp. 79-92.

(12) In November 1998, the United States organized yet another donor conference in Washington, in which it pledged to increase its aid package to the PA by $400 million bringing its aid package to $900 million over the next five years. The aim of the conference was to raise a total of $2.3 billion for Palestinian development in addition to what has already been pledged. See, Phillip Shenon, "Clinton Pledges $900 Million for Palestinians to Reinforce Peace," International Herald Tribune, December 1, 1998, p. 1. Prior to the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, however, contributions to the PA had fallen significantly in 1999. Ora Coren, "Donations to PA from abroad drying up," Ha'aretz, August 18, 1999.

(13) Palestinian National Authority, Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Palestinian Development Plan 1998-2000, Gaza City, December 1997, p. 37.

(14) In one instance, Japan agreed to finance a feasibility study for a sewage treatment plant in the Khan Unis area where none existed. However, as planning for the project was being finalized, the Japanese aid agency informed the Palestinian Ministry of Planning and International Coordination that for the plan to go forward the Palestinians had to give assurances that the plant would not be located within a minimum of one kilometer of the Israeli border. The Israeli government had voiced its concerns about sewage seepage across the Green Line to Japanese aid officials who did wish to become involved in a political dispute.

(15) On the shifting role of U.S. foreign assistance to the Palestinian territories, see Sara Roy, "U.S. Economic Aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip: The Politics of Peace," Middle East Policy 4, October, 1996, pp. 50-76.

(16) Ibid., pp. 62-5.

(17) Descriptions of these projects can be found in USAID Congressional Presentation FT 1998, "West Bank and Gaza" (Washington., DC, 1998).

(18) An outline of UNDP water-sector activities can be found in UNDP/PAPP, Programme Framework, 1998-2000 (Jerusalem, 1998).

(19) The UNDP project in Khan Unis is parallel to the aforementioned much larger bilateral contribution by Japan for $65 million to provide a sewage treatment plant and separate stormwater system for the city similar to the USAID project in Gaza City. At the end of 1998, after over two years in the planning stages, only feasibility studies had been completed, much to the frustration of PA officials. As noted, one cause of delay is the proximity of the sewage treatment plant to the Israeli border.

(20) On several occasions, Jewish settlements with or without the knowledge of Mekorot have violated the Oslo II water accords by installing or extending pipelines without first going to the JWC for a permit. In one case, the Shilo settlement laid an 8-inch pipe across the main Ramallah-Nablus road without getting permission. In the Shilo case, the Israeli response to the formal Palestinian complaint at a meeting of the technical subcommittee was a letter from the Israeli co-chair, Shmuel Cantor, to the Palestinian co-chair, Taher Nassereddin, stating that the Israeli side "regrets this action, and the Shilo settlement will be informed." In June 1998, three months after the pipeline had been laid, no action had been taken to remove it. In another Israeli breech of the agreement, Mekorot put in an 18-inch pipeline in the Jordan Valley without JWC approval. The Palestinian delegation on the JWC did not demand that the pipeline be removed.

(21) Under the terms of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum of September 4, 1999, Israel agreed to transfer another 11 percent of West Bank territory from Area C to either Area A or Area B by February 15, 2000.

(22) One source speculated to me that the PWA would not publish this data because to do so would only increase the anger of ordinary Palestinians. Based on this data, Fadil Qawash told me that in 1998 per capita domestic water consumption by Jewish settlers in the West Bank was five to six times greater than that of Palestinians.

(23) This was the only well Israel agreed to drill for the Palestinians and the only well allowed under the agreement to be dug outside the eastern basin.

(24) "PA intentionally polluting water," Jerusalem Post, May 26, 1997, p. 3; and Liat Collins, "Water boss warns of bleak future," Jerusalem Post (May 28, 1997). Similar comments were made by the Israeli minister of environment, Rafael Eitan. See,"Israeli Environment Ministry accuses PNA of allowing pollution of water supply," BBC, November 30, 1996.

(25) On the Palestinian view of environmental deterioration in the West Bank, see Geoffrey Aronson, "Israeli Settlements and the Environment," Report on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories (Washington, DC: Foundation for Middle East Peace, July-August 1998), special report 4 pp.

(26) I found the Israeli government officials I interviewed generally reluctant to give frank replies to my questions about the implementation process of the Oslo II water accords or, in some instances, unwilling to talk to me at all. Every request to talk to water officials with the Civil Administration was turned down.

(27) At the early stage, after the coming to Ehud Barak and the Labor-led government, it is difficult to detect any significant change in the approach of the Israeli water bureaucracy in its dealing with the Palestinians.

(28) Amira Hass, "Dire water shortages in West Bank," Ha'aretz, English edition, July 27, 1998, p. 2. After the rains failed once again in winter 1998-99, conditions in Palestinian towns and villages have been even worse in the summer of 1999 than in the previous summer.

Dr. Rouyer is professor of political science at the University of Idaho.
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Author:Rouyer, Alwyn R.
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Date:Oct 1, 1999
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