April 20, 2009 / 5:05 AM / 11 years ago

Palestinians get less water than Israel-World Bank

JERUSALEM, April 20 (Reuters) - Israelis have access to more than four times more water than do Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the World Bank said in a report on Monday.

It said that a 1995 interim peace accord that governs the allocation of water has proven inadequate, as the Palestinian Authority has been fragmented by the last eight years of fighting while Israel has improved its own water facilities.

Improving conditions for Palestinians is central to peace strategies sponsored by the United States.

Peace talks launched in 2007 have stalled and the new right-leaning Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has so far balked at committing to restart them.

Efforts have been stymied by Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and a Palestinian schism over the takeover of Gaza by the Islamist group Hamas.

An Israeli official said the World Bank report was "grossly misleading". Israel has a much more developed industrial sector than the Palestinians and this can skew per capita assessments of water consumption, the official said. "It’s like comparing apples to watermelons," the official said.

The World Bank urged international donors to come up with a mechanism to help improve the Palestinian water infrastructure and allow for long-term planning on water distribution despite the vicissitudes of the conflict with Israel.

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