Adalah to the Supreme Court: State Proposals Fail to Meet Water Needs of Unrecognized Villages


At a Supreme Court hearing held on 5 November 2001, Adalah rejected two proposals from the Attorney General’s office submitted in response to a petition demanding that seven unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) be supplied with water for drinking and domestic use. Adalah filed the petition on behalf of the residents of seven Arab unrecognized villages, the Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab, the Association of Forty, the Galilee Society, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, and in its own name against the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Water Commissioner, the Israeli Water Company, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, and the Ministry of the Interior in May 2001. It charges that these government entities maintain a policy of denying clean and accessible water to these villages, thus denying the citizens who live there the basic rights to life, dignity and equality.


While the Attorney General’s office acknowledged the severity of the needs of the unrecognized villages, it failed to offer a solution that genuinely met those needs. The first of these proposals, an offer to establish water distribution points along the main roads of the Naqab, did not consider the substantial distance between many of these villages and the main roads. These residents would have to travel great distances to collect the water, and the amount of water they could carry would not satisfy their needs for any reasonable amount of time.


The second proposal from the Attorney General’s office, the establishment of three service centers to be located in future townships meant to absorb the residents of the unrecognized villages and which would also provide water, poses even greater difficulties in implementation. First, the plan requires the approval of various planning authorities, which will delay implementation for an unforeseeable amount of time. Second, no effort has been made to determine whether these residents wish to move to these future townships. Residents of the villages have indicated that they wish to remain in their villages and continue their semi-agrarian lifestyle, particularly in consideration of the mass unemployment, failed educational system and other social problems faced by those who have moved to such townships.


Near the end of the hearing, the Attorney General’s office stated that a special committee to allocate water to the unrecognized villages of the Naqab was established on 16 October 2001. The Court proposed that the petitioners approach the committee with their concerns. The petitioners agreed on two conditions: that they be allowed to approach the committee with the water needs of whole villages rather than individuals, and that the Court monitor the process. The Court agreed and set a date for another hearing in three months.


See also Adalah’s News Update, Adalah Petitions the Supreme Court Demanding Water be Supplied to Unrecognized Villages in the Negev – 7 May 2001