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Afternoons with IPCRI Overcoming the Limitations of Israeli-Palestinian Environmental Cooperation

July 3, 2013 Notre Dame, Jerusalem

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wears on, cooperation on regional environmental issues remains a major challenge. There is little room for doubt that the lack of coordination in this area has served to speed up the already rapid deterioration of the quality of Israel and Palestine’s shared natural environment. In an effort to find new ways to bridge the environmental divide, IPCRI hosted a public discussion at Notre Dame Hotel in Jerusalem. The goals of the discussion were to take stock of the current barriers to environmental cooperation and to provide a forum for considering new ways to overcome these barriers. Present on the panel were Robin Twite, Director of Environment at IPCRI; Dr. Mohammed Said Al-H’Maidi, environmental consultant and formerly a Director General of the Ministry of Environment, Palestinian Authority; and Professor Alon Tal of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Robin Twite gave the opening remarks. The environmental situation in Israel and Palestine, he admitted, is a challenging situation that—in spite of the efforts and successes of a number of dedicated organizations and individuals—is continuing to worsen. The causes for this continual decline are many, said Twite, and include general pessimism regarding the peace process, the feeling that other problems are more immediate, the increasing fatigue of international donors, and logistical challenges posed by Israeli security measures. Despite these obstacles however, said Twite, there remain numerous areas with potential for fruitful environmental cooperation, and it is critical that environmental advocates retain a sense of optimism. One of these areas of potential, he said, is academic cooperation, citing IPCRI’s involvement in the GLOWA project, a multilateral climate change research collaboration in the Jordan River basin. Twite also cited the unsolved issue of illegal dumping of construction waste in the West Bank as an issue where Israelis and Palestinians alike have strong environmental and material interests in cooperation. Overall, Twite expressed hope that a united front of Israeli and Palestinian environmental activists could have a considerably greater impact on bettering the shared regional environment than either side might hope for in acting alone. Dr. Mohammed Said Al-H’Maidi spoke next, emphasizing the absolute necessity of improved environmental quality for the well-being of the Palestinian people, and outlining a number of present challenges and opportunities for progress. He described the problem of water pollution from stone cutting in Hebron as an example of the mutual benefits of shared cooperation, noting that a technical solution to the problem would both allow Palestinian stonecutters to resume operation and would improve the quality of Israeli groundwater. H’Maidi also noted the Palestinian economy’s need for internationally recognized trade standards laboratories, and suggested that shared IsraeliPalestinian laboratories would both provide a major economic boon for Palestinians and would serve to strengthen the framework for Israel-Palestinian scientific cooperation. Among his other suggestions were a people-to-people guidebook for environmental cooperation and an official joint committee of environmental experts. Most important of all, said Al-H’Maidi, is that trust is the critical element in both environmental cooperation and in the peace process as a whole, and that any +972 (0)2 676 9460

Afternoons with IPCRI The Educational Effects of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

July 17, 2013 Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv

opportunity to expand Israeli-Palestinian trust through joint environmental work is a worthwhile endeavor. Professor Alon Tal was the last to deliver formal remarks. Like Mr. Twite, Tal stated that while environmental conditions in Palestine and Israel have gotten worse, there also are considerable new reasons for optimism. He not that recent technological developments—such as the potential of desalination to restore waterways and reduce “hydro-hysteria” and the increasing power of internet communication to transcend physical and political borders—represent great advancements, and cited signs of an increased consciousness of the importance of environmental peace-building among Israeli politicians. At the same time, Tal noted, there are also considerable new environmental hurdles facing the region, among them the environmental hazards surrounding shale gas development, potential new doubts about the benign character of recycled wastewater, and the inevitable need for adaptation to climate change. In closing, Tal expressed renewed hope in the current stage of the peace process, and exhorted environmental leaders on both sides to be prepared in advance to come to the table with concrete proposals. Following the formal remarks, the discussion was opened to input from all attendees. Among the topics discussed were the importance of transportation policy and limiting urban sprawl, the notion of an electricity tax to fund solar energy development, and the need for expansion of environmental concerns beyond the academic sphere. Mr. Twite closed the discussion, expressing satisfaction in the new ideas that had been brought forth, and reminding participants that the shared work of the environmental community is critical to our futures and the futures of our children. +972 (0)2 676 9460

Afternoons With IPCRI: Overcoming the Limitations of Israeli Palestinian Environmental Cooperation  

The subject was introduced by Professor Alon Tal from Ben Gurion university of the Negev and Dr. Mohammed Said Al-H’Meidi, formerly a direct...

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