וַיְהִי, אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, כֶּרֶם הָיָה לְנָבוֹת הַיִּזְרְעֵאלִי, אֲשֶׁר בְּיִזְרְעֶאל--אֵצֶל הֵיכַל אַחְאָב, מֶלֶךְ שֹׁמְרוֹן" מלכים א' פרק כא"
Allocations of the Water Authority Exposed!
“Connection to water or infrastructure of any kind, in Area C, can only be implemented in regulated and legal places. In any points of settlement or residential clusters, Jewish or Palestinian, that are connected to water, this has been done in a pirated and illegal manner.”
Lt. Col. Adam Avidan - Head of Infrastructure of the Civil Administration, in a Foreign Affairs and Security Committee hearing on May 30, 2022.
Today, we are publishing one of the most important investigations that we have worked on over the past few years. This investigation deals with the water allocations that the Israeli Water Authority grants to settlers who are involved in severe, ongoing, and often violent violations of the law. These are agricultural water allocations, without which those same settlers would not be able to establish dozens of illegal outposts and pirated farms, and take over tens of thousands of dunams of land for cultivation or to be turned into pastures. This is a tactic that has been in use for years, in tandem with other channels through which the state supports the oftentimes violent lawbreakers in the West Bank. At the same time, the Israeli authorities has systematically demolished water infrastructure belonging to Palestinian villages in Area C, claiming that these localities or structures are “illegal.” According to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which closely monitors Israel’s demolition policy in the West Bank, over the course of the last five years, Israel has demolished over 270 buildings and water and sewage facilities used by Palestinian communities in the West Bank, under the pretense that these are “illegal” structures.
“At the beginning of 2007, the Government Water and Sewage Authority was established, with the aim of consolidating the management and oversight authorities in the water and sewage sectors under one professional government body. The Water Authority is responsible for the management, operation, and regulation of the water and sewage sectors, with the primary goal of enabling the provision of water and sewage services, efficiently prioritizing maximum quantity, quality, and reliability of water supply, and increasing the sustainable welfare of the residents of the State of Israel” (taken and translated from the Water Authority website).
In reality, however, the Water Authority not only supplies water to the residents of the State of Israel, but also to settlers living in the West Bank, which is known to be outside of the borders of Israel.
For decades, on an annual basis, the Water Authority has published the “Water Book,” which contains detailed information on water allocations, not only to each locality within Israel and the West Bank, but to each agricultural and industrial consumer. This was true until 2017, when it came to settlements in the West Bank. For some reason, in the water books that have been publicly available since 2018, the detailed information on water allocation to specific consumers in the settlements largely disappeared. Detailed information regarding specific consumers within the State of Israel, however, continued to feature.
It’s a bit strange, no? But we have a hypothesis as to why this happened:
For decades, the Water Authority (or the bodies that preceded its establishment in 2007) has been supplying water to settlers involved in building illegal outposts and taking over large areas of land in the West Bank. All of this is also in violation of the Water Authority’s own procedures, as can be seen in the document of the “Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories” (COGAT) from June 2016, entitled: “Procedure for Water Allocation and Land Preparation - Requests from the Ministry of Agriculture.” Pay attention to Section 5-D: “Requests for land preparation and new cultivation included on land that is not state land (such as: Waqf land, land under a “survey” process, and private land), will not be approved even if they fall under the scope of allocation contracts...” Ostensibly, this issue is very clear. Except that this procedure has nothing to do with what actually happens in practice. A few years ago, someone within the Water Authority seemed to have suddenly woken up and realized that there was a problem with this. No, not a problem with supplying water to those settlers who violate the law, as that has continued without interruption. But rather with the fact that the Water Authority reports about that water supply every year, at the level of detail of cubic meters of water (1 cubic meter = 1000 liters).
Here are some examples, out of dozens, that illustrate the scope of this scandal:
Take the Givat Olam outpost, which is located a few kilometers east of the settlement of Itamar, where Ms. Sharona Ran lives. In 2017, the Water Authority allocated almost 111,000 cubic meters of water to Ran! Sharona Ran also happens to be the wife of Avri Ran, who is behind the takeover of many hundreds of dunams of land owned by Palestinian residents of Awarta and Beit Furik, and who has been involved in many instances of extremely severe violence against Palestinians.
The company “Eretz Zeyit Shemen,” better known as “Meshek Achiya,” is the main group involved in the takeover of agricultural lands east of the settlement of Shilo. Although no fewer than six eviction orders are pending against this company for its invasion of hundreds of dunams of land owned by Palestinians, the Water Authority allocated to it close to 100,000 cubic meters of water in 2017.
In 2017, the Water Authority allocated close to 17,000 cubic meters of water to Meir Berg, who used to be a resident of the settlement of Psagot. Meir Berg is the father of Yaakov Berg, who is the founder and CEO of Psagot Winery, which is directly involved in the takeover of about 80 dunams of private land surrounding the settlement of Psagot.
In 2017, the Water Authority allocated close to 12,000 cubic meters of water to Itamar Weiss, a resident of the settlement of Elon Moreh (who also works as an employee at the Meshek Achiya company). But the vineyards that Weiss waters, as well as his winery, are both located on privately owned land that he invaded.
In 2017, Yehoshaphat Tor, the founder of “Havat Maon,” which is one of the most violent illegal outposted in the West Bank, received “only” over 9,000 cubic meters of water from the Water Authority, for a large flock of sheep that he raises there.
The information that we are presenting here for the first time refers to the last two decades or so, because we were not satisfied with the information contained in the water books covering 2010-2022, which are publicly available on the Water Authority’s website. Instead, we made efforts to obtain the earlier water books that cover the period of time from the late 1990s to 2009.
The Water Authority does not, of course, work alone in this sector of supporting lawbreaking settlers. In October 2018, in the newspaper Haaretz, we uncovered the deep involvement of the Settlement Division in granting loans to settlers involved in illegal construction and violent takeovers of land on a vast scale. This research in its entirety can be found on our website.
Link to the article in “Zman Israel”: https://bit.ly/3VHodfJ