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Cablegate: Jump Starting Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation On

VZCZCXRO4382
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #2323/01 2081253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271253Z JUL 07 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2537
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS BE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 002323

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y ((ADDING CAPTION & PASSING INSTRUCTIONS))

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE; NEA/IPA FOR WILLIAMS/SHAMPAINE/BELGRADE;
NEA/RA FOR LAWSON; PRM FOR PDAS GREENE AND PRM/ANE; NSC FOR ABRAMS/
WATERS; TREASURY FOR SZUBIN/LOEFFLER/NUGENT/HIRSON; BRUSSELS FOR
LERNER;

PLEASE PASS TO USAID FOR KUNDER/MCCLOUD/BORODIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID ECON SENV KBIO KWBG IS
SUBJECT: JUMP STARTING PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI COOPERATION ON
WATER

REF: A. A. 2006 TEL AVIV 4741
B. B. JERUSALEM 509

TEL AVIV 00002323 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) This is a joint cable of the Embassy in Tel Aviv
and the Consulate General in Jerusalem.

2. (SBU) Summary: In the wake of the formation of Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad,s Palestinian Authority, the
U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli Trilateral Water Working Group
(TWWG) met on July 19 for the first time in almost two years.
Discussions centered around two issues: 1) the emergency
water needs of the Palestinians; and 2) the need for longer
term joint strategic planning to help ensure adequate water
supplies for the future. The Palestinian team focused most
of their comments on the emergency needs, noting that many
WB/G water projects have been awaiting approval in the
bilateral Joint Water Committee for up to several years. The
Israeli team, while acknowledging the immediate Palestinians
needs, also noted the need for a more strategic focus on the
longer term needs to help ensure adequate, sustainable water
supplies for the future. The TWWG agreed to hold a working
level meeting in three weeks to follow up on both the
immediate and longer term issues. Both the Palestinian and
Israelis teams urged the USG to re-start its substantial
water sector assistance program, which, until it was put on
hold when Hamas took over the PA, had done an outstanding job
in improving Palestinian access to water and improving
Palestinian management of it water resources. By all
measures, this TWWG meeting provided an important jump start
to what had been a dynamic and important mechanism for
supporting Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on water issues.
End summary.

Background and Introduction
---------------------------

3. (SBU) The TWWG was established under the 1995
Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement to support the work of
the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC)
and assist the parties to implement the agreement,s water
provisions. Dr. Charles Lawson, NEA Senior Advisor for
Science and Technology, leads the U.S. team (which includes
Embassy, ConGen and USAID officers), Eng. Fadel Ka,awash,
Director, Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) leads the
Palestinian team, and Dr. Uri Shani, Director, Israeli
National Water and Sewage Authority (INWSA) leads the Israeli
team. Up until March 2006 when Hamas took over the PA, the
TWWG had met on average two to three times a year since 1995.
The TWWG last met on September 22, 2005 (a February 2006
meeting was canceled when Hamas won the Palestinian
elections). Over the years, the TWWG proved itself to be a
very useful and productive mechanism for facilitating
progress on the USAID water sector assistance program for the
Palestinians and facilitating discussions on broader water
issues between senior Israeli and Palestinian water
officials, even when there was little or no dialogue between
the political leaders (such as during the second Intifada).

Opening Remarks
---------------

4. (SBU) In his opening remarks, U.S. Chair Lawson emphasized
the USG,s desire in restarting the TWWG mechanism to support
Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on water issues. He noted
that it is in the interests of all the three TWWG parties to
do what they can in the water sector to bolster President
Abbas, PM Fayyad, and the Palestinian Authority during this
crucial initial period of the new PA. In that regard, Lawson
asked the Palestinian and Israeli teams to work together to
develop a list of emergency water sector needs and actions
that could be taken by one or more of the TWWG parties (and
other donors) that would have immediate, positive,
on-the-ground impacts for Palestinian populations. Lawson
also noted that it would be useful for the two parties to
provide the U.S. with a list of the longer range water sector
needs (i.e. larger water infrastructure projects) so that the
USG would better understand the parties, longer-term
priority needs. In their opening remarks, PWA Director
Ka,awash and INWSA Director Shani both welcomed the
opportunity to re-start the TWWG and to work with the USG
again in the water sector for the Palestinians. They urged
the USG to re-invigorate its substantial water sector
assistance program to help ensure that Palestinian water
needs are met.

Palestinian Water Needs
-----------------------


TEL AVIV 00002323 002.2 OF 003


5. (SBU) Ka,awash reported that the PWA and the INWSA had
cooperated informally over the last year and a half to
address emergency water needs in the West Bank and Gaza.
(Note: During the Hamas-led government, INWSA had GOI
approval to engage with the PWA on an emergency basis to
address humanitarian needs. Given the many emergency
Palestinian water needs, this led to frequent PWA-INWSA
contact. However, no formal JWC meetings were held during
that time. End note.) Ka'awash explained that the PWA had
approximately 100 water projects still pending Israeli
approval in the JWC - 90 percent of those being small-scale
pipe projects to be completed in the span of two or three
weeks. Although he praised INWSA-PWA's informal cooperation
during the last year and a half, Ka,awash noted that donor
countries have already committed funds to numerous WB/G
projects that are awaiting Israeli approval.

6. (SBU) In terms of larger projects, Ka'awash emphasized
the importance of re-starting the Hebron wastewater treatment
project, which the USG had put on hold when Hamas came to
power. He also encouraged a joint INWSA-PWA effort to build
a wastewater treatment plant at the Wadi Nar (also know as
Wadi Kidron) sewage drain, located between Jerusalem and
Bethlehem, and requested
USAID assistance in its construction. He noted that
approximately 15-20 million cubic meters of untreated sewage
- emanating from both Israeli and Palestinian sources - is
put into the wadi annually (see Ref A for background).
Regarding Gaza, Ka'awash said that, as a result of the lack
of modern wastewater treatment facilities, the coastal
aquifer has been exposed
to effluent. He asked that Israeli authorities allow
shipments of pipes and pumps to pass into Gaza to be used in
PWA projects such as the Northern Gaza Water Treatment Plant
(see Ref B). Ka,awash also requested that the Israelis turn
over the files on the wells in the former settlement areas of
Gaza so that the Palestinians could properly utilize them.
When queried, Ka'awash said that PWA offices in Gaza operate
free of Hamas involvement and interference. He went on to
note that Hamas never tried to interference with PWA
operations in the West Bank or Gaza after it took power in
March 2006.

7. (SBU) Ka'awash expressed his gratitude to USAID for the
on-going Beni Naim water project, which is scheduled for
completion by mid-2008. With the completion of this project
(the last of the major USG water supply projects in the
southern West Bank), the PWA will be able to supply potable
water to the homes of an estimated 700,000 Hebron-area
Palestinians, and Ka'awash described the project as essential
to water delivery in the southern West Bank. Ka,awash noted
by mid-2008, when the Beni Naim project is completed, the
basic water needs (approximately 100-150 liters per person
per day) of most of the Palestinian population in the
southern West Bank will be met. Ka,awash stressed, however,
that the water shortages in the northern West Bank were much
more serious and the needs yet unmet. He asked his Israeli
partners for help in providing for the water needs of
Palestinians in the northern West Bank. (Note: The water
problems in the northern West Bank are long standing. The
Israelis use most of the water in the aquifer underlying the
northern West Bank and, thus, are reluctant to allow
Palestinians greater access to the aquifer, since that would
mean less water for Israeli consumers. End note.)

Israeli Perspectives
--------------------

8. (SBU) INWSA Director Shani noted that water resources are
scarce in Israel as they are in the entire region, making it
difficult to provide the Palestinians with significantly more
water from existing sources. The Israelis argue that the
only viable long term solution to regional water scarcity is
the development of sea water desalinization plants. Shani
emphasized that the Israelis have been responding to
Palestinians water needs based on requests from the PWA, and
he noted that Mekorot (the Israeli water company) increased
the quantity of water provided to Palestinians from 43 to 46
million cubic meters over the last year. The Israeli team
stressed that the two parties need to develop a long range
strategic water plan to ensure adequate and sustainable water
supplies for the future. Otherwise, they would always be
dealing with short term emergency needs. Ka'awash agreed
that desalination was a good solution for the long term, but
he added that towns in the northern West Bank require
drinking water now - not in the five or so years it would
take to construct desalinization plants. (Note: While the
need for new water sources is important, Palestinian water

TEL AVIV 00002323 003.2 OF 003


officials have been reluctant to engage in detailed
discussions about the construction of a sea water
desalination plant to serve the Palestinians, except in the
context of permanent status negotiations. They believe that
to do otherwise might prejudice Palestinian negotiations on
rights to the existing water resources in the West Bank
aquifers, whenever they might get back to the negotiating
table in the future. End note.)

Wrap Up and Follow Up
---------------------

9. (SBU) In concluding the discussion, all three TWWG
partners agreed on the need to tackle the issues of short
term, immediate needs and longer term needs simultaneously in
parallel discussions. TWWG Chair Lawson requested that the
Palestinian and Israeli teams meet bilaterally as soon as
possible to come up with a mutually agreed list of immediate,
emergency needs and to begin discussions on the longer term
needs. Lawson proposed that a working level TWWG meeting be
held in three weeks - after the parties meet bilaterally - so
that the Palestinian and Israeli teams could give the
emergency needs list to the USG and also discuss longer term
needs.

10. (SBU) Comments: With its July 19 meeting, the TWWG got
off to a good start after an almost two year hiatus. Both
the Israelis and Palestinians expressed satisfaction with the
meeting,s outcomes and emphasized their commitment to work
together on water. Both parties also were very clear in
their desire that the USG take on the role it previously
played as the major donor in the Palestinian water and
sanitation sector. End comments.


CRETZ

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CRETZ

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