Water and energy are two urgent, and in many ways interdependent, needs facing off-grid communities around the world. In Area C of the occupied Palestinian territories, this global problem set is colored by the particular reality of the Israeli Occupation.
Comet-ME’s work targets rural off-grid farming and herding communities in the southern and central West Bank. The inhabitants of these mostly arid regions subsist on non-mechanized agriculture and herding. The harsh climate is compounded by an extremely difficult political reality by which the communities live disconnected from all infrastructure, including access roads, electricity, and running water.
Comet-ME works exclusively in Area C of the occupied Palestinian territories. Area C, as defined under the Oslo II accords, constitutes 62% of the West Bank and is under full Israeli military and civil control, including all matters pertaining to planning, construction, and development.
Area C is the only remaining land and agricultural reserves for a viable future Palestinian state and economy, but most of the land has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements and the Israeli military. The discriminatory planning regime imposed by Israel, harassment and violence by settlers, and restrictions placed by the military, are tantamount to a policy aimed at pushing the Palestinian population out of Area C and into Areas B and A to make way for Israeli development and settlement expansion.
Threat of demolition
Lack of permitting and the threat of demolition are the most significant obstacles to rural development in the West Bank, including rural electrification and water projects such as Comet-ME’s. The Israeli authorities hinder development projects as part of a larger policy aimed at pressuring rural communities in Area C to relocate into Palestinian urban centers, thus securing Israeli demographic dominance in the only remaining land reserves of the West Bank. Palestinians in Area C are subject to Israeli military rule, which is separate from the legal system that applies within Israel proper. They do not possess political and civil rights in the legal system that is imposed upon them. The obstruction of projects providing energy and water services in Area C is thus a direct breach of Israel’s obligation under international law to fulfill the basic needs of the occupied population.
Comet-ME has been fighting the threat of demolition of its systems by the Israeli authorities since 2012. To date, 18 Comet-ME micro-grids are under concrete legal threat, with more than 2,000 people depending on these systems for livelihood, lighting, refrigeration, and other basic needs.