Gershon Baskin is the CEO of the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information, and is also running as a candidate on the Israel Green Movement’s list for the Knesset in the upcoming elections.
In the Jerusalem Post, he writes firmly of the need for the Israeli water negotiators to depart from an “occupation mindset” and cooperate with the more enlightened head of the Palestinian Water Authority:
“The water negotiations between the sides are still controlled by Israelis who are stuck in a mind-set of continued occupation. Uri Shani, the head of the Water Authority, is a professional, non-politician who was appointed by Tzipi Livni to head the water negotiations with the Palestinians. In reality, the talks are controlled by Noah Kinarti and Baruch Nagar. Kinarti is an old-time kibbutznik, a friend of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who holds fast to the old Zionist ideology of control and occupation. He is stuck in the Zionist ethos of making the desert bloom (which everyone now knows is no magic – all you need is to waste huge quantities of water) and for him every drop of water in Israel is Jewish water, Zionist water and if we compromise, we are compromising on our very existence. Nagar is essentially the water commissioner of the West Bank – he is in charge of protecting the interests of the settlers in the West Bank who enjoy about seven times per capita more water than the Palestinian majority who live there. Kinarti and Nagar are the commissars who make sure that the liberal minded Shani does not give in to the logical and reasonable approach taken by the Palestinian water negotiators.
THE HEAD of the Palestinian Water Authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili, presents an approach to water that diverts from the traditional Palestinian approach of demanding that Israel recognizes Palestinian water rights, which usually translates into the entire mountain aquifer – or all of the water underneath the West Bank. Attili speaks about the need to develop joint water management that takes responsibility for supply, demand, conservation, planning and development. He makes the logical claim that in this small piece of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, all of the water resources are shared. The water flows underground in the aquifers without any regard for political borders. There is no Green Line on the aquifers. How can anyone justify that Israelis and Palestinians should have such extremely different amounts of water available to them.
It is true that in this joint water pool that we share, there is a zero-sum game. Whatever one side gets is at the expense of the other. Today when the water deficit is more than one full year of rainfall, division of the water resources or it reallocation is a reallocation of the deficit. If we fight over water, everyone loses. Instead, if we cooperate, everyone can benefit.
Cooperation means changing the “hard disk” in our minds regarding the Palestinians. The occupation mind-set that guides the talks on water led by Kinarti and Nagar can only lead to bad agreements or to conflicts. It simple terms – “it’s the occupation – stupid!” There can be no agreement with the Palestinians with that attitude, not on water, and not on any other issue on the negotiating table.”