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    Israeli-Palestinian conflict muddies water meet
    Environmental Protection Minister Erdan, Palestinian Water Minister Attili clash during national water viability conference

    A recent panel discussion about the water crisis in the region saw a heated debate between Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Palestinian Water Minister Dr. Shaddad Attili – so heated that the panel had to be dispersed after a mere 20 minutes. 


    The panel, held as part of a national water viability conference in Ashdod on Tuesday, failed to address the subject at hand, as Attili spent his time on the stage ignoring his Israeli colleague, offering virtually no solutions to the water shortage plaguing the PA; and focusing mostly on the Palestinian's statehood aspirations. 


    Erdan responded sardonically: "How can I solve the Palestinian water problem when their minister refuses to address the issue? You need cooperation to resolve problems. How can I address the matter when he automatically assumes we're the 'bad guy' in this case?"


    Erdan agreed that the Palestinian population suffered from a lack of clean water, but laid the blame with the PA – and especially Gaza's rulers – refusal to collaborate with Israel. "I'm not the one who elected Hamas – you did," he said.


    Attili later told Ynet that the water in Gaza are not safe for drinking, adding that his position was linked to Israel's actions: “We suffer because of the Israeli policies. For this problem to be solved we need the leaders to promote these issues, not water ministers.”


    The Oslo Accords named the Joint Water Committee responsible for allocating water to the PA, as well as managing waste-water treatment in the West Bank sewage. Attili said the committee's protocols must be changes.


    "In 1995 we talked about doubling the ratio of water consumption per-person within four years, but nothing was actually done," he said.


    The Palestinian minister blamed Israel for the destruction of the south bank of the Jordan River, dismissing any parallel responsibility by Syria or Lebanon.


    Despite the stormy panel's end, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) Israeli director Gidon Bromberg declared the event a success: "The minister agreed for the first time that the committee's current structure is not serving either side's interests and that it must be changed." 


    Speaking at a Union for the Mediterranean, conference in June, Erdan was quoted as saying that the Israeli-Palestinian water issue must be resolved outside the framework of a future Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty: "If we insist on linking the two we'll never reach the kind of cooperation needed to resolve the region's water crisis."



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    Erdan and Attili at the conference
    Photo: Joeseph Weninger