November 30, 2010 – A Model Water Agreement between Israel and the PA

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Model Water Agreement between Israel and the PA
“Equitability and sustainability are two critical needs to mediate a solution to the crisis”

• Different than the Oslo agreement: this model is based on a dynamic agreement between the sides, and suggests an alternative to the “temporary” agreement in place since 1995.
• The model presents an institutional structure with four critical bodies to implement the principles for joint management, where two central bodies lead the process: a “Bilateral Water Commission” and a “Water Mediation Board”.
• Principles of joint management: economically efficient water management; socially and politically equitable (not necessarily equal) water management; ecologically sustainable water management; management that would be implemented in practice

EcoPeace Middle East is launching today (Tuesday, November 30th, 2010) a new model water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The model was prepared for the organization by water experts Dr. David Brooks and Dr. Julie Trottier, well versed in the Israeli Palestinian conflict and in the field of Middle East water, and will be presented at the “A Water Agreement Cannot Wait” conference, that will be held on Tuesday, November 30, 2010. Among the invited guests are MK Yoel Hasson, Head of the Lobby for Water Security from the Israeli Parliament, as well as members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Other participants include Yitzhak Vald, mayor of Baka Gharbia, representatives from both the Israeli and Palestinian Water Authorities, and international water law experts from academia. The conference will discuss the presented model and shared water issues.

Different than the Oslo Agreement that divides the shared Mt. Aquifer waters like a pie between Israel and Palestine, EcoPeace suggests an innovative model of a dynamic agreement between the sides, taking into account changes in quantities of water due to years of drought and climate change, changing development needs and other factors. The model seeks to replace the “temporary” agreement composed in 1995 that has failed to safeguard the shared water resources, especially the Mt. Aquifer, allowing for over pumping by Israel, pollution of the groundwater and surface water originating in the West Bank and continuing into Israel, and the unfair allocation of shared water resources.

The suggestion put forth by EcoPeace is to adopt a shared management structure, led by the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and a third party. This innovative structure is based on solutions of ongoing conflicts on anything having to do with water usage – and does so in a way that effectively de-nationalizes and de-securitizes water uses. The model suggests basing the agreement between the two sides on four general objectives for shared water management: economically efficient water management; socially and politically equitable (not necessarily equal) water management; ecologically sustainable water management; management that would be implemented in practice.

The suggestion draws an institutional structure of four critical bodies to ensure the above goals, with two central bodies leading the process: the “Bilateral Water Commission” and the “Water Mediation Board”. Each body is composed of an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian representatives, as well as a representative from an agreed-upon third country. The Bilateral Water Commission is to replace the current Joint Water Committee that has been in place since the Oslo Agreement, but different in the sense that it will be responsible for all shared waters, and not only water for Palestinians. This committee will decide on such issues as establishing limits for water withdrawals, standards for treatment and targets for releases of water from aquifers on the basis of the recommendations set by its advisory body, the “Scientific Advisory Office”, comprised of a team assigned by both governments. In cases where the Bilateral Water Commission does not reach an agreement or there is opposition to a suggestion raised by one of the parties, the issue will then go to the “Water Mediation Board”. This council will have a range of tools to mediate and resolve conflicts, including public meetings and scientific research. The Mediation Council will be assisted by another body, the “Local Water Management Board” that has the authority to give advice, and if needed, also the authority to represent local organizations.

In the end, the measurement of success for this process will not be the number of conflicts solved successfully by the Water Mediation Board, but the number of conflicts that were successfully solved by the natural negotiation process that did not even reach the table of the Water Mediation Board.

The institutional structure presented for management of shared Israeli-Palestinian water divides its power over water in several axes: between the Israeli and Palestinian governments; among several joint Israeli-Palestinian institutions; between scientific and political dimensions of management; and among institutions working over several scalar levels.

Nader el Khatib, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East: “The suggested agreement deals well with the lack of transparency and power games characteristic of the current Water Committee that cause the blockage of necessary projects from moving forward”.

Munqeth Mehyar, Jordanian Director of EcoPeace Middle East says: “Contrary to agreements on land issues that see the resource as a “pie” to be sliced between the sides, water is a resource that moves and flows, crosses political boundaries, and can be reused again and again”.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, explains that “joint water management is a complex issue for Israelis and Palestinians, especially after long years of conflict between the two sides. However, this model agreement proves that we can, nonetheless, come to an agreement, without water being held hostage to the lack of progress in the peace process”.

For more information:
Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, EcoPeace Middle East; 052-4532597
Nader Khatib, Palestinian Director, EcoPeace Middle East; 059-9606544
Munqeth Mehyar, Jordanian Director, EcoPeace Middle East; +962-777548477