The following excerpt was taken from a classified report by Israel's Water Commission on the "Impact of the disengagement, summer 2005."
"...if the Palestinians go ahead with their plans to lay a sewage pipe that drains into the sea in the northern Gaza Strip, it will paralyze the largest desalination plant in Ashkelon and pollute the nearby beaches. Crippling the operation of the desalination plant by piping sewage into the sea from northern Gaza is intolerable for the national water system. Any attempt to lay a pipe that drains sewage into the sea and pollutes our coastline must be physically stopped."
The recent tragic incident in which the Bedouin settlement of Umm Naser in the Northern Gaza Strip was flooded by sewage when the wall of a nearby wastewater storage facility collapsed serves to underscore the myopic folly of the "disengagement" concept, and the impossible - but not impossible to predict -situations in which it places Israel, and will continue to do so in the future.
Some kind of "sewage debacle" was virtually predestined to occur after Israel's hasty and ill-considered evacuation of Gaza. Immediately after the withdrawal, veteran military commentator Zeev Schiff published an article entitled "From wastewater to war" (the Hebrew version bore the title "Worse than Qassam rockets") where he spelled out the dire hydro-strategic dangers that would confront Israel if the question of Gaza's sewage was not adequately addressed.
In the article, he referred to the Israel Water Commission's Report cited above, and detailed the warnings from official experts regarding the threats to the new desalination plant near Ashkelon - and to the national water system as a whole - that are liable to arise as a result of channeling the sewage to the sea from precisely the areas where the recent tragedy took place.
In this regard, the Palestinian claim - or rather accusation - that Israel is responsible for the disaster because it allegedly prevented the laying of a planned pipeline, financed by Sweden and the EU, to carry the sewage to the sea is both interesting and worrying - whether it happens to be true or not.
If, on the one hand, the accusation is true, there is room for grave concern, for it indicates that despite the detrimental repercussions that such a pipeline would have for Israel, the Palestinians were still planning to go ahead with its construction - even though they were well aware of the consequences for Israel, as the Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Fadel Kawash, acknowledged in the past. Moreover, the fact that the Swedes and the Europeans were willing to fund the project and to ignore its impact on Israel is, to say the least, disturbing - and edifying.
If, on the other hand, the accusation is false, there is still room for alarm - in at least two possible contexts. Firstly, if the Palestinians were indeed planning the construction of such a pipeline, and the Israeli government did nothing to prevent it, whether it was unaware of the intention or simply unwilling to thwart it, this would constitute a serious dereliction of duty, which could result in very severe damage to the country, its economy, and its citizenry.
If, however, there were no Palestinian plans to deal with the sewage problem in the area, it means the Palestinian administration is totally unaware and/or unprepared and/or unable to handle this crucially important matter. One does not need exceptional powers of prediction to foresee where such a situation will lead: Deepening social distress, worsening sanitary conditions, frequent epidemics of infection and disease (with the danger of this spreading to Israel)
Needless to say, numerous reasons will no doubt be concocted to lay the blame at Israel's doorstep and accuse it of being responsible for causing all this human misery - and any international credit and goodwill that the proponents of the disengagement hoped to gain by abandoning Gaza will be totally eroded away and lost.
But even more worrying is the fact that this situation will inevitably bring about a spate of improvised and haphazard initiatives from the local inhabitants to contend with the problem - without any planning, supervision or regard for the hydro-strategic damage these initiatives will cause the hated Zionists. Very soon - courtesy of the disengagement and its architects - Israel will find itself impaled on the horns of a nasty dilemma being forced to choose between two very unpalatable choices:
- A hydrological/ecological disaster that threatens to cripple the national water system and pollute a large section of its coastline; or
- A political/diplomatic nightmare where Israel is obliged to use military force to "physically stop" (in the words of the Water Commission Report) that crippling disaster from taking place, while being portrayed as a callous monster coercing multitudes of unfortunate, fate-stricken Palestinians to endure a life of squalor in swamps of sewage and stench.
And there is yet one more aspect to consider. In light of the fact that the Palestinian regime, in all forms and shapes, has since its inception following the Oslo Accords consistently shown that it is far more interested in harming Israelis than benefiting Palestinians, the more cynical observers may be excused for raising a disconcerting possibility which cannot be flippantly discarded: Might not the Palestinian leadership exploit the Gaza sewage flows, with purposeful malice, for a mega eco-terror attack against the "Zionist entity?"
The strategic consequences of such act would be far more damaging and far more difficult to prevent than those of rockets and explosives.
So whether we are talking about malevolent design or malignant neglect, the matter of sewage may turn out to be what one seasoned commentator termed "The Palestinian Doomsday Weapon."