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The Hydro-Political Implications
of the Oslo Agreements:
An Israeli Perspective

Martin Sherman
Policy Paper No. 62, from the book,
Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero Sum Game?, 2001


The article analyzes the impact of the 1993 and 1995 "Oslo Accords" on Israel's water system. These agreements effectively imply the end of Israeli control over major sources of water presently utilized by her, imposing new and in many ways, unprecedentedly onerous limitations on the country's already over extended supplies. The major focus is on the waters of the Mountain Aquifer, which are designated to be shared by Israel and the Palestinians. This aquifer is not only the principal source of drinking water for the Israeli urban metropolis, but is also a vital regulating element in the overall management of surpluses and deficits of other sources, such as the Sea of Galilee. Thus, in times of crisis, it is also a crucial factor in their long term maintenance as viable sources of potable water. The fact that under the Oslo Accords, virtually the entire recharge area of the aquifer is to be transferred to Palestinian administration implies that Israel will no longer be able to determine the rate of exploitation or to contend with pollution of her ground water supplies directly. These factors will be largely dependent on Palestinian goodwill. This, together with the ineffective joint decision-making mechanisms stipulated in the Oslo Accords, create a difficult hydro-policy making context for Israel. The pros and cons of various policy options are debated.

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