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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05TELAVIV1340 2005-03-07 16:13:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

GAZA DISENGAGEMENT WATER ISSUES: STILL MUCH WORK

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 001340 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2015
TAGS: EAID IS KWBG PREL SENV GAZA DISENGAGEMENT ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
SUBJECT: GAZA DISENGAGEMENT WATER ISSUES: STILL MUCH WORK
TO DO

REF: 04 TEL AVIV 6500

Classified By: Economic Counselor William Weinstein, reasons 1.4 (b) an
d (d).

This message has been cleared with Consulate General
Jerusalem and USAID West Bank-Gaza Mission.



1. (C) Summary: Although Israeli and Palestinian water
officials have generally displayed relatively close
cooperation, they have not worked out specific arrangements
pertaining to Israel's disengagement from Gaza and the
northern West Bank. The Israeli Water Commissioner reported
that Israel has solved its water scarcity problem by
desalination and waste water treatment, and can supply
additional water to Gaza, albeit at market prices. The
acting Chairman of the Palestinian Water Authority is more
knowledgeable about the West Bank than Gaza, and recently
questioned whether the PA should take over agricultural
assets when Israeli settlers depart Gaza. We are urging both
sides to meet soon to review outstanding water issues related
to Gaza disengagement. End summary.



--------------------------



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Israel Solving Problem of Water Scarcity, But Still Issues of
Ability to Pay


--------------------------



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2. (SBU) Econ Counselor, ESTH Officer, and USAID West
Bank-Gaza Water Projects Director called on Israeli Water
Commissioner Shimon Tal on February 28 to inquire about
preparations for Gaza disengagement and related issues. Tal
said he and his colleagues believed they have solved the
problem of water scarcity in Israel through desalination and
treatment of wastewater. Regarding water quality, the
Commission is working with several U.S. companies to remove
excess salts from ground water. Israel's water problem is
now one of "financial scarcity," Tal said. Industry and
municipalities are able to pay for water, but "national
interests," particularly agriculture and nature preserves and
other open green spaces, can not pay the real cost of water.
Tal said Israel's water sector needs to be reorganized to
place all water management "under one roof" to manage such
public needs "more on natural principles." Then Israel would
be able to prevent future scarcity problems.



--------------------------

-
GOI Committed to Helping Gaza with Water Needs


--------------------------

-


3. (C) On Gaza Disengagement, Tal said that the amount of
water currently supplied to Israeli settlers was minor
compared to Gaza's total needs. He anticipates that the
wells used by the settlers would be turned over to the
Palestinian Authority (PA). Although the national grid would
need to provide water for new settlements within Israel
proper, the Commission could continue to provide current or
even greater quantities to Gaza from the grid, albeit at
market prices. (Note: Water currently supplied to the
settlers for agricultural use is subsidized, but Israel would
not make those subsidies available to the PA. End note).



4. (C) The Commission and the PWA have not yet discussed
specific arrangements related to Gaza disengagement. Tal
said he was waiting for "an agreement" between Israel and the
PA on disengagement, but would be willing to work with the
PWA to ensure turnover arrangements went smoothly. ESTH
Officer and USAID Water Projects Director spoke briefly with
Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer March 2 on the
margins of the Desalination Conference in Tel Aviv. The
Minister said he hoped the Palestinians "would be independent
soon," and that he was ready to support their needs for water
supplies in the meantime.



--------------------------


Unauthorized Wells: Cooperation and Concern


--------------------------




5. (C) Tal said that the IDF had recently taken action
against nine unauthorized wells on the West Bank in
cooperation with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA). He
was very concerned that the PWA would lose control of
unauthorized drilling on the West Bank after disengagement.
(Note: This is more of a long-term issue as the four small
settlement areas in the northern West Bank that will be
evacuated will likely remain classified as Area C, where
Israel has full administrative and security control. End
note). Haphazard drilling had already ruined the aquifer in
Gaza.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Acting PWA Chairman Just Starting to Focus on Disengagement


--------------------------



--------------------------




6. (C) ESTH Officer discussed preparations for disengagement
with PWA Acting Chairman Fadel Kawash over lunch at the
Desalination Conference. Kawash said the new PA Agriculture
Minister Waleed Abed Rabo had asked him whether the PA should
try to maintain settler agri-business assets (e.g.
greenhouses) following disengagement. Kawash told the
agriculture minister that from the standpoint of water, the
PA should not/not maintain those operations. He said he was
concerned that water catchment structures on the settlements
might be preventing replenishment of the Gush Katif aquifer.
When ESTH Officer noted that the settlers relied primarily on
wells and the Israeli grid, Kawash said he may have spoken
too soon and needed to get more information. He commented
that he and Tal needed to improve the exchange of information
related to disengagement.



7. (C) Kawash said that he and Ben-Eliezer spoke just before
the conference started earlier that day and had agreed to
meet in the near future to discuss priority projects. He
asked that the U.S. continue to work to bring the sides
together and encourage the exchange of information and
cooperation related to Gaza disengagement. ESTH Officer saw
Tal at the Desalination Conference later that day and urged
him to move forward on sharing information with Kawash.



--------------------------


Plenty of Work To Do


--------------------------




8. (C) Comment: The Water Commission and the PWA continued
their cooperation throughout the Intifadah. However, they
have been slow to rise to the new challenges posed by Gaza
disengagement. This is largely because most direct
discussions between the GOI and PA on disengagement did not
begin until February. The lack of direct discussions in the
water sector is likely reflective of the recent death after a
long illness of long-time PWA Chair Nabil Sharif who was
based in Gaza and hesitation by both Tal and Kawash about
getting out in front of the process. We will be pressing the
NSC and other Israeli bodies involved in disengagement to
assure Tal that he can move ahead with informational
exchanges on water. We will also continue to encourage the
parties to make water arrangements for Gaza
disengement-related water arrangements a major topic for
discussion at the next meeting of the Trilateral Water
Working Group, tentatively scheduled for April 7. End
comment.

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