The Jordan river is an international water course that is shared hydrologically by Israelis, Jordanians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians. Of all these riparians, Palestinians are the only side that have been denied the utilization of the waters of the Jordan River waters and are facing a serious water crisis not due to the lack of water accessibility rather than availability. Israel is currently utilizing more than 80 % of the Palestinian water resources and thus inducing water scarcity that is impacting the economic, environmental and social fabrics of the Palestinian society. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Jewish settlers are utilizing 80 mcm of Palestinian water resources annually. More than three million Palestinians are currently allocated 286 mcm of water per year for all purposes while 6 million Israelis utilize close to two billion cm of water annually. About one fourth of the Palestinian communities do not have access to public water networks. For agriculture, Palestinians are restricted to irrigate 10 % of their cultivable land while Israel is irrigating half of its cultivable land. In Gaza, Palestinians are forced to over-pump the shallow coastal aquifer leading to sea water intrusion and consequently, deteriorating water quality. Palestinian communities are living under suppressed demand for water and are experiencing severe water shortages.
According to Oslo II agreement, Israel recognized the Palestinian water rights, but these are to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. However, so far, no negotiations have taken place to enumerate the Palestinian water rights. The Oslo II agreement included arrangements for delivering an additional 28.6 MCM for the Palestinians to meet their immediate needs for domestic water use during the interim period. Regrettably, less than 12 mcm of additional water has reached the Palestinians which are not enough to meet the growing needs of the population which is still experiencing shortage of water supply.
In this paper, the author shall address the hydro-geopolitical settings along the River Jordan describing the history of the Arab-Israeli water dispute and highlighting the status of the current negotiations. It is realized that water is a particularly critical, as well as emotional, point of dispute among the riparians, but finding a common understanding of water issues in the Middle East would go far to enhance the possibilities of achieving stability in the region. It is proposed here that “equal utilization“ of the water resources between Israelis and Palestinians and “Basin wide management” among all Jordan river basin riparian countries offer a just and sustainable basis for resolving the historic water conflicts.