Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials signed an agreement yesterday to jointly advance water infrastructure and development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The agreement, which was signed by Maj Gen Yoav Mordechai, head of Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) office, and the PA’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, will renew the activities of the Joint Water Committee, following a six-year hiatus. The signing was also attended by Moshe Garazi and Mazen Jenim, the heads of the respective Israeli and Palestinian water authorities.
Mordechai said: “The signing of this water agreement proves that it’s possible to reach understandings and agreements when we discuss issues substantively, bilaterally, clean of extraneous issues of natural resources and additional infrastructures that affect the entire population.”
He added: “Over the past year and half, we’ve [Israel and PA] signed four agreements: electricity, water, mail and 3G cellular infrastructure, which is intended to improve the quality of life for all the populations in the region.”
The agreement will see the Joint Water Committee reconvene, having been established in the 1990s as part of the Oslo Accords. Intended to function as a temporary five-year mechanism, it has not met for the past six years.
The committee will be tasked with discussing the allocation of additional water for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the increase of water sources by approving new drilling, the introduction of water tariffs, agricultural water use and promoting hydrological matters. The agreement is also intended to pave the way for laying new pipes for water, sewage and effluent, plus improving the sharing of water reservoirs as the summer months approach.
In addition, the committee will work to formulate a long-term strategic water plan for the region until 2040, taking into account expected population growth during the interim period.
Also yesterday, the Palestinian WAFA news agency said that a new pipeline will be laid next month, which will increase the quantities of cooking gas available to Gaza residents and provide gas to Gaza’s power station.