Today, Al-Haq sent a letter to the Dutch company Vitens NV warmly welcoming its decision to terminate its collaboration with the Israeli national water company Mekorot. Al-Haq particularly commended Vitens on its adherence to principles of international law in making this decision.
In 1982 the former Israeli Minister of Defence Ariel Sharon transferred ownership of all West Bank water supply systems to Mekorot. As a result of Mekorot’s control over Palestinian water sources, Palestinians have largely been forced to rely on the company to meet their annual water needs. Furthermore, Mekorot extracts water from Palestinian water resources in order to ensure that copious amounts of water reach the settlements and Israel. For example, as of September 2011, all Israeli settlements situated in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were connected to a water network and serviced by Mekorot. Mekorot meets water consumption by settlers amounting to an average of 396 litres per capita daily (lpcd), whilst only allowing Palestinians an average of 73 lpcd – much below the minimum domestic use recommended by the World Health Organisation (100 lpcd). In effect, more than 500,000 settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) consume more than six times the amount of water used by the Palestinian population of almost 2.6 million, despite the fact that the water is extracted from occupied Palestinian land. As such, Mekorot has played an instrumental part in furthering the settlement enterprise, ensuring discriminatory allocation of water, and in denying Palestinian control over natural resources in the OPT.
In accordance with their inherent right to self-determination, Palestinians retain permanent sovereignty over their own natural recourses, including water, and as such Israel is prohibited from exploiting and disposing of natural resources situated in the OPT. International humanitarian law (IHL) prohibits Israel, as the Occupying Power, from administering the occupied territory to benefit its own interests, including its private business enterprises and settlements.
Vitens’ decision to terminate its cooperation with Mekorot is in line with international law and international regulations and should serve as a precedent to other companies. It is imperative that Vitens maintains its position and withstands any attempts made to convince the company to retract the decision.
To read more about Mekorot’s discriminatory allocation of water, see Al-Haq’s publication: Water For One People Only: Discriminatory Access and ‘Water-Apartheid’ in the OPT