Water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Briefing 13-01-2016

The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza is one of the fastest growing in the world and its demand for water is increasing. Access and distribution of water in these territories has been an issue within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967. In 1995, the Oslo II Accord adopted a quantitative approach to the water issue, detailing the quantities to be allocated to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but did not sufficiently take into account the natural, political and socio-economic developments that have affected water supply and demand in the region since. Economic disparities, lack of substantial and sufficient infrastructure and of effective water resources management, compounded by pollution and climate change have led to disproportionate allocation of water and to substantial depletion and contamination of water resources. Water consumption by Israelis and Palestinians reflects stark inequalities. Due to the allocations of trans-boundary water resources agreed upon under Oslo II, Israel currently controls approximately 80% of water reserves in the West Bank. Military conflict in Gaza in the summer of 2014 left over a million residents without access to water. The international community and the EU have expressed concern over the limited access to water in the West Bank and Gaza, and have become active on the issue of water management. Reports from the European Commission (EuropeAid) highlight that technical and humanitarian assistance on water issues has to go hand in hand with progress on the political front, in order for effectiveness to be maximised and for long-term results to be achieved.