Factors Relating to the Equitable Distribution of Water in Israel and Palestine

  • David J. H. Phillips
  • Shaddad Attili
  • Stephen McCaffrey
  • John S. Murray


Access to sufficient volumes of water of appropriate quality is a vital human need, as demonstrated by proposals of the World Health Organization (and others). Indeed, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has recently recognized the human right to water. Many authors have documented the inequitable distribution of water resources in Israel and Palestine, and this issue is included as an element of the Permanent Status negotiations between both Parties. Surprisingly, the Road Map produced by the Quartet does not specifically mention the need for attention to water resources except in the context of multilateral efforts (addressing regional sources of water, and the Jordan River basin in particular). However, it is clear that the current inequitable division of the water resources as a whole in the region must be addressed if Palestine is to become an independent viable State in the future, which is a pre-condition at the end of the second phase of the Road Map.

In this and other facets of the negotiations between the Parties, Palestine should rely upon the principles of customary international law, if a robust and lasting agreement is to be attained. Israel’s reliance to date on the single criterion relating to the prior use of water should be considered against the background of the multiple factors determining the equitable and reasonable allocation of international watercourses, as set out in customary international water law. The relevance of such international law to the permanent status negotiations is discussed, and the implications for resource allocations from shared freshwater sources are addressed. It is noted that both parties will benefit significantly from the joint management of shared watercourses in the future, and a framework for this is proposed.


Water Israel Palestine International Law Jordan River 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. H. Phillips
    • 1
  • Shaddad Attili
    • 2
  • Stephen McCaffrey
    • 3
  • John S. Murray
    • 4
  1. 1.Adam Smith InstituteLondonEngland
  2. 2.the Negotiations Support UnitRamallahPalestine
  3. 3.McGeorge School of LawUniversity of the PacificSacramentoUSA
  4. 4.Syracuse UniversityWashington DCUSA

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