Israel has been ignoring Palestinian requests to help them build a new water treatment plant in the Gaza Strip. As a result, one of Israeli's most important water desalinization plants in Ashkelon was recently taken off line due to sewage flowing in from Gaza.
After several years of neglect, a new water treatment facility was built in the northern Gaza with international funding at a cost of $100 million. Construction was finished last year, but the facility hasn't come on line due to a shortage of electricity in the Strip. Israel's Electric Corporation has been ignoring Palestinian requests to connect the facility to the electrical grid since 2013, and has rejected other solutions.
The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories responded by saying "Israel supplies electricity to Gaza. The allocation of this electricity is decided by the Palestinians. Gaza has unused power capacity which can be allocated to power the plant. We are leading an examination of possible options in order to solve the general energy shortage in Gaza.
As a result, tens of thousands of gallons of sewage is dumped into the sea every day by the Palestinians, and part of it ends up at the Ashkelon desalinization plant and the beaches in the area.
A month ago, the plant had to be shut down twice due to the amount of pollution in the water. The plant's management reported this to the Water Authority and the Ministry of Health, and initial checks revealed that there was a dangerous amount of E. Coli and other harmful bacteria in the water.
Because of this, the water supply from the plant to the National Water System was cut in half. The Water Authority calls this is a "significant threat" to the water supply from the plant, especially because the pollution coming from Gaza is expected only to increase.
"Today, while the north is suffering from a drought, and the water supply coming from the Sea of Galilee is almost zero, it is of even greater importance to keep the desalinization plants on line," an official from the Water Authority said.
According to the CEO of the EcoPeace organization, Gideon Bromberg, who has been working to fix the pollution problem: "We are talking about a giant flow of over 90 million cubic liters of sewage every day, which threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in the southern coastal region."
Unlike other issues, this affects the ecology on both sides of the fence, and can not be solved without cooperation on both sides.
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabai said that "it is quite unnecessary to invest billions into trying to mitigate the flow of wastewater to Ashkelon, and then remain indifferent to the wastewater situation in Gaza."
His office further said that the Ministry has already turned to the Defense Ministry and the IDF regarding the issue.
Officials at the Energy Ministry, which is responsible for the energy and water supply, claim that they were only made aware of the problem in the last few days. Minister Yuval Steinitz noted that "we suffer from this pollution almost as badly as the Palestinians, and it is in our interest that this issue be dealt with.
While the Ministry of Energy claims that they only recently heard about the problem, the Israel Electric Corporation sent them the information three years ago. "We went to the relevant authorities in 2013, but until today we havn't received any applications or work orders from them."
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said: "Israel is a provider of electricity to the Strip. The decision on the allocation of the electricity is made by the Palestinians. We're leading administrative work to examine possible solutions to the general energy problem in the Strip."