June 25, 2012 | Atara Beck - Israel Correspondent
Mark Langfan (left) seen here with his father, William Langfan, during their recent visit to Israel, is finally getting a hearing, after 22 years of hard work, to show that Israel’s water resources are at risk. (Photo: Atara Beck)
JERUSALEM – Not only is the claim that Israel steals water from the Palestinians a flagrant lie, but the exact opposite is true – Palestinians are stealing water from Israel, and Israel provides the Palestinians with plenty of water, says American attorney Mark Langfan, whose findings were recently confirmed by a detailed Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) fact sheet regarding the water issues in the West Bank, published by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria.
Focusing on the issue of water resources, Langfan has been struggling to bring awareness of what he sees as the need for Israel to hold on to the territories of Judea and Samaria, as well as the Golan Heights, in order not to lose access to its own vital water supply.
During the past 22 years of hard work, using his own unique visual tools – three-dimensional, topographic maps that he created – he has been demonstrating this point to Israelis and to prominent officials in the American administration.
It seems that his persistence is beginning to pay off.
Just last week – shortly after he returned to the US from his most recent visit to Israel, where he addressed a brief gathering at the Knesset organized by MK Yisrael Katz, among other meetings with influential figures – the Israeli Government Press Office sent out a release about the COGAT report, and the information completely supported what Langfan had been preaching for more than two decades.
Langfan’s maps present a clear argument for Israel to maintain defensible borders. In fact, the term ‘defensible borders’ takes on new meaning when one under
stands the geographical elements – and, consequently, the real threat to Israel’s own water resources – presented here.
For example, pointing to the mountains of Samaria, he explained: “The water starts here and ends up in pre-1967 Israel. Also, water flows naturally, and has always done so historically, from the West Bank to Israel.”
Speaking to an official at the US State Department recently, Langfan was told that others had used maps to demonstrate that Israel had been stealing Palestinian water.
“They take a map that’s flat, not three-dimensional. They don’t understand the topography. From their map, you could use the argument that Israel is sucking up the water from the West Bank.”
Israel has been fulfilling its water obligations to the Palestinian Authority, but the Palestinians continuously breach the agreement, claimed Langfan, the recipient of several awards for his important pro-Israel advocacy. In his West Bank Briefing Book, updated in 2012, he quotes from a study conducted by Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, which supports his position.
To understand the situation in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, it is important to note that the Israeli communities there were strategically built to safeguard water sources not only for the residents of the West Bank – Jewish and Arab – but for the entire Jewish state, Langfan said. Years ago, he met with military hero and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who explained the careful choices for the locations of West Bank cities such as Ariel and Kedumim, which sit on the western mountain aquifer.
“As an attorney, I thought: how could Sharon testify in court? That’s how I came up with this idea for the maps. I wanted to bring evidence – a scientifically produced map, not shaded for or against anything.”
The new COGAT report addresses the question: “Why are Palestinians digging unapproved wells but not digging approved wells?”
According to Langfan, “this is the 900-pound gorilla. Even though there are approved wells in the eastern portion of the West Bank that could be used by the Palestinians, they’re trying to dry the wells in the western portion so that no water could get to pre-1967 Israel…. So what could Israel expect if it gives up sovereignty of the territory?”
The PA “is refusing to build water sewage treatment plants that would help farming.... Kids are getting diarrhea – and they’re blaming Israel.”
He calls this strategy “toilet jihad,” comparing it to the use of human shields in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead to vilify Israel.
Langfan’s brief includes an article written in The Guardian in 2011, castigating Israel for charging residents of the Palestinian village of Susiya 35 shekels per cubic metre for water.
According to the new COGAT report, “the trade price of water between the Israeli and Palestinian sides was established by the Joint [Israeli-Palestinian] Water Commission in 1998 as 2.6 NIS per cubic metre for the Palestinian Water Authority. This is a considerably lower rate than the full real price and also significantly lower than that paid by Israeli municipalities, both within Israel and the West Bank.”
(The average Israeli Municipality pays 3.86 NIS per cubic meter.)
“So the PA is ripping off its own people to the extent of almost 33 NIS per cubic metre of water and blaming Israel,” Langfan said. “This is pure, demonstrable evil.”
Perhaps this situation should be known as Israel’s Watergate, he quipped.