Palestinians and human rights groups contend that Israel takes the water for its population. Israelis consume four times as much per person as Palestinians, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, Palestinians say they need Israeli permission to access even the water that remains within the West Bank.
"It's a systematic policy," says Nader Khateeb, who heads the Bethlehem office of environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle East. "Controlling the water means controlling the economy and development."
Amnesty report criticizes Israel
An October report by Amnesty International last month accused Israel of denying Palestinians access to local water resources while allowing neighboring settlements "virtually unlimited supplies." Amnesty accused Israel of neglecting Palestinian infrastructure development and leaving as many as 200,000 without running water. Hundreds of thousands of settlers use the same amount as 2.3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, the report alleged.
Professor Shuval rejected Amnesty's claims of neglect by Israel of Palestinian infrastructure. He noted that when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, practically no Palestinian villages had a central water supply. He did say, however, that Israelis had developed their own water access in the area of the Jordan Valley, a practice Mr. Shuval acknowledged is illegal under international law.