A New Road Map to Middle East Peace
A New Road Map to Middle East Peace:
Start with Water
 
Policy Proposal by:
Ambassador Oded Eran, Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
Attorney Gidon Bromberg, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME)
 
INTRODUCTION AND RATIONAL
 
Since the start of the Oslo process in 1993, all attempts at the peace process have been predicated on the belief that a comprehensive solution to the three most contentious issues—Jerusalem, borders and refugees—is possible. Unfortunately, repeated efforts seeking a simultaneous solution to all three issues (i.e. “nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon”) have failed.
 
Based on a series of in-depth discussions and a simulation held in conjunction with the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and the Tel Aviv office of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), we believe that the best chance for reviving the defunct peace process is by first tackling certain “easier” issues, particularly the issue of water.
 
Given the dire Palestinian need for more water availability; Israel’s new water supply due to large scale desalination; and a joint need to deal with untreated sewage, restarting negotiations with water as a first priority makes economic, ecological, and most importantly, political sense. An agreement on water would greatly improve the current living conditions of both peoples. For Palestinians, it would increase fresh water availability in every home; for Israelis, it would remove pollutants from rivers and streams that flow through its main cities. The agreement struck would be a Final Accord on Water and not another interim process. Reaching a final status agreement here will help build trust necessary to put the political process between Israel and the Palestinians back on track, and will give hope to both peoples that a diplomatic solution to their conflict is possible.
 
We believe that the next Israeli government, regardless of the composition of the next coalition, will be primed to reach incremental solutions, especially ones which avoid for the time being removal of settlements or sharing sovereignty in Jerusalem. Tackling issues such as water and sanitation first meets this premise. Resolving water issues provides an urgently needed win /win and advances the two-state solution by reaching a Final Accord on one of the final status issues. A water agreement also presents the opportunity to frame future arrangements relevant to borders, at this stage requiring Israeli recognition of Palestinian water rights to the Jordan River. Through the Jordan River, the water issue may further be leveraged to include the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the process, a political advantage for all involved and an opportunity to touch upon the broader water issues of the region including the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.
 
PROPOSED MECHANISM AND PROCESS
In order to advance this approach we propose the following:
 
1. Goodwill Measures on Water Supply and Sanitation
An Israeli government commitment to immediately provide an additional 30 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) at no additional cost to the PA, with priority of supply to the most needed areas, especially the southern towns and cities of the West Bank.
 
The southern West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Hebron and Yatta could be immediate beneficiaries of this measure, ideally implemented this coming summer. Such a gesture would help strengthen Palestinian public support for the PA, demonstrating conclusively that tangible Israeli concessions can come at the negotiating table and not just (as Hamas claims) at the barrel of a gun. Increased water supply to other Palestinian towns and cities, including in Gaza, from this allocation would be coordinated with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).
 
In tandem, the Palestinian Authority would announce that the World Bank-led sewage treatment plant currently planned for the city of Hebron will be expanded to include the treatment of all Palestinian domestic and industrial sewage, which at present crosses over to Israel via the Hebron Stream. The PA would require an estimated additional $30 million contribution from donor states to be able to undertake this effort, a project to which the U.S. administration might consider contributing. This measure would gain broad support in Israel, especially in the city of Beersheba, Israel’s “capital of the Negev”, where currently the sewage flows untreated.
 
2. Opening of Negotiations on a Final Status Water Agreement
 
Either simultaneously or following these confidence building measures, there will be a joint declaration that the parties have agreed to begin new negotiations towards reaching a new water sharing agreement, one which would replace Article 40 of the Oslo Accords. Negotiations would be conducted between official Israeli and Palestinian delegations, and mediated by the U.S. and the wider international community. Mediators would suggest negotiations be completed within six months.
 
3. Suggested Principles and Mechanism of a Final Water Accord
 
FoEME has prepared a draft model Water Accord (Brooks / Trottier) that could be the basis of negotiations (see summary attached). The draft Water Accord is based on the principles of an agreement being economically efficient, socially equitable, ecologically sustainable and practically implementable.
 
The suggested mechanism includes the creation of:
A. A Bilateral Water Commission (BWC) replacing today’s Joint Water Committee (JWC) with responsibility for all shared water (non-shared water sources would remain to be handled nationally).
 
B. The BWC would make key decisions on rates of extraction and of delivery of shared water and the removal and treatment of waste water. Its decisions would be based on advice from a subsidiary body, the Office of Science Advisors (OSA), to be made up of professional staff appointed or seconded by the two governments. The BWC could not make a draft decisions on its own; rather, it could only accept or reject recommendations from the OSA, without the power to alter them. The purpose of this format is to avoid giving sides the ability to leverage water issues in their endless horse-trading on other, wider issues.
 
C. A Water Mediation Board (WMB) would be setup. Should the BWC find itself unable to accept a decision of the Science Advisors, or should a group or community oppose a decision, the Water Mediation Board (WMB) can take action. The WMB would have a wide range of tools available to guide a process of seeking resolution ranging from scientific investigations to public forums.
 
D. Both the BWC and WMB are suggested to be composed of an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian representatives plus one member from outside the region, agreed to by both sides. If voting is necessary, the rules are designed to prevent either side from dominating the other.
 
Click here for a 2 page updated version of this proposal.
 
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