September 6, 2011
A law review article written by Professor Steve McCaffrey was cited by the Supreme Court of Israel in a decision issued by that nation’s high court this summer.
The Georgetown International Environmental Law Review article, “A Human Right to Water: Domestic and International Implications,” 5 Geo. Int'l Envtl. L. Rev. 1 (1992) was quoted in Abadallah Abu Massad, et al. v Water Commissioner & Israel Lands Administration, a case involving water rights for Bedouin tribes.
In 2006, the six Bedouin tent villages filed suit against the state water commission because it would not provide connections to state water resources. Their initial appeals failed, but on June 5, 2011, the court adopted McCaffrey’s widely held position that under Israel's Basic Law there is a right to water.
However, it did not afford the plaintiffs access to the main water network because the six settlements in question are illegal. The court rejected the appeal for residents of three of the villages, arguing that two of the appellants had access to water while the third had been given access to the main network. The water commission was ordered to review the other three cases. The partial victory for the Bedouins included a court order for the state to provide “minimum access to water.”
McCaffrey, one of the world’s foremost authorities on international water law, is a familiar figure in Mideast disputes over water rights. For more than a decade, he has been an advisor to the Palestinians in connection with their permanent status talks with Israel.