Palestinians in the West Bank purchase more than half of their domestic water supply from the Israeli National Water Company Mekorot. Mekorot also supplies the vast majority of water consumed by illegal settlements from wells inside of Israel and from more than 42 wells that it controls and operates in the West Bank in violation of international law. Being dependent upon water supply from Israel leaves Palestinians in a highly vulnerable position. Mekorot frequently cuts water supply to Palestinian villages and neighborhoods.
While it is true that Israel is selling Palestinians far more water than it is obligated to sell to Palestinians according to the 1995 Oslo II Article 40 water agreement, it is also true that Israel is preventing Palestinians from developing additional quantities of water from new Palestinian wells approved under Oslo.[i] Israel’s obstruction of Palestinian water development has forced Palestinians into a state of dependence upon purchasing water from Israel.
LifeSource’s documentary film Filling Point, shows the effect of Mekorot restrictions and violations of international law on the 20,000 residents of As-Samou – South Hebron. The As-Samou Well Pumping Station had been pumping water since 1955 to the residents of As-Samou and an additional 25,000 Palestinian residents in the area. In 1982, in violation of international law, the Israeli Military Commander sold all Palestinian water infrastructure under its control to Mekorot for one symbolic shekel – including this well and pumping station. After years of negotiations, As-Samou was permitted to access some limited additional quantities of water from Mekorot via a new filling point to be constructed, but on the condition that this water not be distributed to residents through their existing water network. Thus residents are forced to rely on slow and expensive water tankers with increased risk of water-borne disease, while a simple pipe is all that is needed to bring water to residents in their home.
[i] Israel agreed to allow Palestinians to develop additional quantities of water as “immediate needs” to be realized before the year 2000, as well as “future needs.” While Israel is indeed selling Palestinians more than they are obligated to sell, it is also the case that little over half of the additional quantities that Palestinians were promised to be able to develop as “immediate needs” have actually been realized today and Israel is currently withholding approval for 82 well drilling projects that would allow Palestinians the quantities approved under Oslo. World Bank (2009), p. 36.