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04TELAVIV6500 2004-12-22 10:02:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  


This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 006500 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2014


Classified By: Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

This is a joint Embassy Tel Aviv - Consulate General
Jerusalem message.

1. (C) Summary: Palestinian and Israeli water chiefs and
their staffs held a thorough exchange focusing on water
supply issues for Gaza and the West Bank during
U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian Trilateral Water Talks at USAID
offices in Tel Aviv December 9. The Israeli and Palestinian
officials agreed to address a variety of immediate and
long-term issues in bilateral Joint Water Committee (JWC) and
Joint Technical Committee (JTC) meetings later this month.
Israeli Water Commissioner Shimon Tal and Palestinian Water
Authority (PWA) Chairman Nabil Sharif agreed on the need to
engage in long-term planning while cooperating closely on
immediate supply needs. Revisiting themes from a meeting
with Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Pearce earlier
that day, Sharif called for an active U.S. dialogue with the
Palestinians and resumption of major water projects in the
Gaza Strip. Both Tal and Sharif identified desalination
(desal) as a key factor in handling future supply gaps.
Coordination of wastewater treatment with water supply
planning was also highlighted as key to addressing water
shortages. Embassy and Consulate General will encourage both
parties to hold near-term detailed discussions on the impact
of Gaza disengagement on water supply and infrastructure
arrangements. End summary.



2. (C) The latest meeting of the Trilateral Water Working
Group, chaired by NEA Senior S&T Advisor Charles Lawson, was
held on December 9, less than six months after the last
session (reftel). Despite occasional sparring, Israeli and
Palestinian participants praised the close cooperation of the
"water club" and emphasized the need to work together even
more closely on immediate water needs and longer-term
planning. PWA Chairman Sharif opened by saying "If we are to
be a state, we need to have our own source of water. There
will be no trade in water and we will be the owners of the
water source," referring to the suspended Gaza desalination
project. (Comment: Although Sharif opened with a hard-line
statement, he proceeded to soften his tone during the
meeting, repeatedly reiterating the need for cooperation.
End Comment). In the course of the three-hour meeting,
Sharif and his deputy Fadel Kawash voiced flexibility
regarding new sources of water supplies, whether from
jointly-agreed new wells, re-use of wastewater, desal, or
purchase from Israeli water company Mekorot.

3. (C) Israeli Water Commissioner Tal noted that within
Israel new supplies would be coming on line from the Ashkelon
desal plant and from treatment at more than forty wastewater
effluent points that would yield 150 million cubic meters of
water over the next two years. Tal and planning chief Yossef
Dreizin said it was time to create "a new vision" for the
future of water in the West Bank and Gaza, as a decade had
passed since the Interim Agreement. (Comment: This was
clearly an attempt by the Israeli side to begin the thinking
and planning process towards negotiations on water. End
comment). Kawash detailed water supply problems in the
northern West Bank. He also touched on training needs for
PWA personnel. Both sides agreed with Lawson's suggestion
that JWC and JTC meetings later this month review the overall
water supply situation in the West Bank and then recommend
how best the USG could assist.

4. (C) Both sides also agreed to a renewed emphasis on
coordinating water supply and wastewater treatment efforts.
The Palestinian side and the JWC intend to invite donors to a
coordination meeting on such projects after the January 9
Palestinian presidential election, with USAID providing
technical support for that session as needed. The Israelis
and Palestinians also agreed to facilitate new Israeli
supplies of water for Ramallah, and to agree on a location
for the Gaza emergency connector before the end of the
calendar year. All parties pledged to include public
awareness outreach efforts to enhance understanding of the
benefits of wastewater treatment projects, especially for
farmers who could use treated wastewater for irrigation. The
upcoming JWC/JTC meetings will discuss and handle the issue
of unauthorized wells on the West Bank as a bilateral issue.



5. (C) In separate conversations on the margins of the
Trilateral Water Working Group meeting, both Tal and Sharif
told Lawson that they were ready to enter into water
negotiations whenever their respective leaderships give the
approval. At the talks, Sharif stated that both emergency
needs and long-term planning should work in parallel, calling
the latter even "more important" than the present needs
detailed by his deputy. Tal noted the degradation of the
quality of water in shared aquifers due to population
pressures as an added incentive for forward planning. Sharif
and Tal agreed they would report back to U.S. colleagues on
discussions in the JWC and/or JTC on broad future planning,
including what kind of involvement they want from the USG.
They also agreed to restore the frequency of the Trilateral
Meetings, committing to a new round of talks in approximately
three months.

PWA Chair Urges Stronger U.S. Engagement with Palestinians



6. (C) Echoing comments he had made earlier at a working
breakfast with Lawson and in a private meeting with
Ambassador Kurtzer and Consul General Pearce that morning,
Sharif made an impassioned plea for the U.S. to engage with
Palestinians across the full range of development issues, and
"...lead the international community back to Gaza," and to
let the Palestinian public know that the U.S. was making
major contributions to infrastructure development and poverty
alleviation. In their private meeting with Sharif, the
Ambassador and Consul General emphasized that progress was
needed on the Palestinian security investigation into the
October 15, 2003 attack on the USG convoy in Gaza before they
could recommend resumption of USAID projects in Gaza. Sharif
expressed concern that not enough attention was being given
to the USG role in development projects in the region.
Middle Easterners see images of the devastation in Iraq
rather than images highlighting all the contributions that
the USG has made to develop Iraq. Sharif stressed that a lack
of USG action in Gaza could compound the negative perception
of the USG's regional role.

7. (C) In response, the Ambassador and Consul General said
that Sharif could assist by bringing water issues to the
forefront with the Palestinian leadership, especially the
impact the Gaza projects will have on the 1.3 million people
in Gaza. The CG noted his sense that to the leadership in
the West Bank, the Gaza water projects remain somewhat
abstract assistance projects, since they are not living
through the very difficult water situation in Gaza. The more
the West Bank leadership hears from those living in Gaza
about the importance of the projects, the better. Then the
leadership may come to understand how their actions on
security issues in Gaza will have a practical effect on the
Gaza population.

Still to be Addressed: Disengagement and Water Infrastructure



8. (C) Comment: This latest round of talks was positive and
bodes well for future cooperation. At one point, Sharif went
so far as to say "The Intifada is over...the man is dead."
This reference to Arafat's passing further emphasized
Sharif's interest in moving forward. Despite their
relatively close collaboration and the progressive atmosphere
evidenced in the talks, Israeli and Palestinian water
officials have not yet directly tackled the impact that
disengagement from Gaza will have on water issues. The GOI
has pledged to leave water infrastructure intact, but the
reality on the ground promises to be more complicated. The
Embassy and Consulate General will be encouraging Tal,
Sharif, and their staffs to look at supply and maintenance
arrangements, to help avoid collateral damage to water
infrastructure as settlements are evacuated, and to pay close
attention to the health of the Coastal Aquifer. End comment.

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