There is no end to the challenges we are facing here, but I believe I am seeing greater resilience on the part of Israelis – in both official and unofficial positions – with regard to dealing with them. Let this be a trend that continues and grows.
Occurrences described below touch upon significant issues; my goal is not just to report, but to provide some clarity.
On February 12, European Union President Martin Shultz addressed the Knesset. In the course of his remarks, he spoke about the Israeli blockade of Gaza without considering the rockets being launched from Gaza on Israeli civilians, and he referred to an inequity in water sources, with a situation in which “Palestinians get 17 liters of water for every 70 Israelis get.”
Naftali Bennett, head of Bayit Hayehudi, then stood up and called upon his entire faction to leave the Knesset in protest because of falsehoods and insult to Israel.
Shultz later admitted that he received the information about water from a Palestinian Arab and had not taken the time to check further.
The issue of water usage and fallacious claims about Israel depriving Palestinian Arabs of their fair share of water are grist for the anti-Israel mill. Here, I would like to refer you to a study that sets the record straight.
In a recent BESA Center study, hydrologist Prof. Haim Gvirtzman of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University, drew on previously classified data to examine Palestinian Arab water claims against Israel; he also examined international law to show that the Palestinian Arabs have little basis for their water demands.
“…data recently released for publication by the Israeli Water Authority – 15 years after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement…shows that currently there is almost no difference in per capita consumption of natural water between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority claims that it suffers from water shortages in its towns and villages due to the Israeli occupation and cites international law in support of its claims…
“But contrary to Palestinian claims, Gvirtzman demonstrates that Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations according to the agreements it signed in 1995 with the Palestinian Authority, and in fact has exceeded them. The PA currently consumes 200 MCM of water every year (with Israel providing about 50 MCM of this) – which, under the accords, is more than Israel is supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final settlement arrangement.
“Gvirtzman shows that large difference in water usage that existed in 1967, when the administration of Judea and Samaria was handed over from Jordan to Israel, has been reduced over the last 40 years and is now negligible. As well, the per capita domestic water consumption of the Palestinians is significantly higher than the minimum human needs defined by the World Health Organization.
“In contrast, the Palestinians have violated their part of the agreement by drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 MCM/Y of water, and connecting these pirate wells to its electricity grid. Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected itself in many places to the water lines of Israel’s Mekorot National Water Company – stealing Israel’s water.
“Palestinian famers also routinely overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Gvirtzman says that at least one-third of the water being pumped out of the ground by the Palestinians (again, in violation of their accords with Israel) is wasted through leakage and mismanagement. No recycling of water takes place and no treated water is used for agriculture.
“In fact, 95 percent of the 56 million cubic meters of sewage produced by the Palestinians each year is not treated at all. Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500 million international donor fund available for this purpose. ‘The Palestinians refuse to build sewage treatment plants,’ Gvirtzman says. ‘The PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management.’”
This past Sunday, the Kohelet Policy Forum – founded and chaired by Prof. Moshe Kopel – held a conference on the issue of Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. You hear a great deal about this currently because of the negotiations issue (which I will return to), but this question significantly transcends matters of negotiations.
Kohelet has been promoting Israel as the Jewish nation-state and has drafted a bill intended as basic law, which is being advanced by members of the Knesset. Israel does not have a constitution – basic law functions as its constitution.
Groups (such as the pro-Palestinian Arab NGO Adalah) that oppose Israel as a Jewish state, claim that Israel cannot be democratic if it is Jewish. This is simply anti-Zionist nonsense.
Minster of the Economy Naftali Bennett (head of Habayit Hayehudi) made this clear in his statements during a panel discussion at the Kohelet conference. There must be “zero tolerance” for national identities other than Jewish in Israel. At the same time, “no minister has worked as obsessive as me to integrate Arabs economically from an individual perspective.” (Emphasis added)
And there you have it: clarification of the distinction between individual and national rights – a distinction that is regularly obscured by anti-Zionists.
Arab citizens must have the same civil rights, the same protection as individuals under the law, the same opportunities for employment, medical care and education, the same social welfare benefits, etc. As individuals.
At the very same time, since Israel is the Jewish nation-state, we have a right to the Jewish star on our flag, to an anthem that refers to the Jewish soul, to the primary use of Hebrew in the nation, to the use of the Hebrew calendar for marking national holidays, etc. Those who argue that all of this is “unfair” to Arab citizens are making a fallacious argument intended to weaken us.
Please see this briefing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum on this very issue. From that brief (emphasis added):
“…Ninety years ago at the San Remo Conference following World War I (April 1920), the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers determined the allocation of the Middle Eastern territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire and decided to incorporate the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish national home in Palestine into the British Mandate for the territory, a move which confirmed international recognition of the right of Jewish self-determination.
“The language adopted at San Remo was a triumph for Zionism, which saw a national solution to the problem of the Jews. It recognized the existence of the Jews as more than individuals who subscribed to a certain religion – Judaism – but rather as a corporate group deserving of national expression, in this case in the form of a national home. And this home was to be in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews. The language agreed upon at San Remo was, as British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon put it, ‘the Magna Carta of the Zionists.’ It was clear at the time that the term ‘national home’ really meant a state.”
Another issue of enormous contention has to do with our rights on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit). There is much happening with regard to this today, but I am going to simply mention it and return to the issue later, after a debate in the Knesset is concluded. Taking the lead in the Knesset is Moshe Feiglin (Likud).
What is clear is that Jewish rights on the Mount are being denied, and that this is a political hot potato that is likely to lead to violence because that’s the way the Arabs wish to play it. Israeli police had to quell a riot on the Mount today.
Last night there was an attack on a Hezbollah stronghold on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Reports from various Arab sources are conflicting:
“Lebanon’s Daily Star reported overnight Monday that the strikes targeted a weapons shipment meant for Hezbollah. Citing unconfirmed reports, Al Arabiya said the strikes were on a moving convoy carrying ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon, to be put to use by the Shi’ite organization.
“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the target was a Hezbollah ‘missile base.’”
There was talk of two separate strikes, and the possibility that a missile launching base was hit.
While there is no official confirmation – it would hardly make sense to doubt that it was Israel that launched the attack. “We are doing everything that is necessary in order to defend the security of Israel,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said during a press conference today.
And those negotiations? Kerry is still “fine-tuning” his guidelines and the rumors continue to fly. Officially, Abbas is still saying that he will not recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Unofficially there are leaks indicating that Abbas might be ready for some compromise on this.
This makes me exceedingly dubious for it smacks of a concession that is worded such that it would not really be a concession at all. We’re looking at the prospect of some diplomatic fancy footwork that makes it appear that Abbas has given on this point but that in actuality puts the squeeze on Netanyahu. (For example, from my own head: “We agree that many Jewish people believe that Israel is their nation state.”)
It is unfortunate that Netanyahu made this “the issue” that would define his readiness to move ahead. It should, rather, have been part of a package of red line issues that included such things as a cessation of incitement.
You might be interested in this article, “We Don’t Want a Palestinian State, We Just Want to Live Well,” which reflects the attitude of some Palestinian Arabs weary of PA grandstanding at their expense. It provides a whole different, and more honest, perspective – and makes a mockery of the current “peace process.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.