Just as Jewish and Arab tribes stood side by side, fighting for the troops of Mohammed, so they join forces again. Israeli’s, Palestinians and Jordanians work together at Ecopeace Middle East. This activist group, founded in 1994, initiates and supports ways to distribute water equally between Jewish and Arab communities. By tackling environmental hazards together, Ecopeace hopes to overcome political differences and to draw Israeli and Palestinian authorities closer to sustainable peace.
Dealing with the environment poses a dilemma. Because isn’t control over natural resources exactly why neighbouring communities are usually in conflict with each other? Especially, one would say, when these resources are scarce, such as water in the dessert.
However, according to Ecopeace director Gidon Bromberg, lack of water is not a problem. On the contrary: ‘Israel has abundant resources of water. The country is a regional water superpower, leading in research and development of water technologies. ‘ Thanks to membrane engineering, seawater is made drinkable in desalination plants. The factory in Ashkelon, for example, provides for 70 percent of the country’s drinkable water.
On the other hand, Israel’s leadership in water management doesn’t benefit the two million citizens of Gaza. They have to buy water from the desalination plant in Ashkelon, because 97 percent of the groundwater in Gaza is undrinkable. Other natural resources, such as the Jordan River and costal aquifers, are contaminated with raw sewages and chemical waste.
Meanwhile Ecopeace fears that the Dead Sea (to which Palestinians have no access) will be dried out in 2050. Global warming and sinkholes have since 1931 caused the Dead Sea to decline by one third of it’s capacity. To make matters worse, Ecopeace claims that Ashkelon’s desalination plant dumps byproducts, such as brine, into the Dead Sea, further damaging the ecosystem.
While for Ecopeace it’s clear that certain issues divide Israeli and Palestinian governments, water should not be one of them. Certainly because, as Gidon points out on Ted Talks, Israel has the technology to distribute water to everyone at reasonable costs and to provide for regional water security:’One of the challenges we face, however, is that the peace process is a zero-sum matter. Resolving water problems, which is easily done in this day and age, is held hostage by both parties in order to gain a better position in other state issues, such as the division of Jerusalem.’
Then again, Gidon is optimistically looking at signs of political insight:’ Israel and Jordan already have a cordial relationship regarding water supplies. The Israeli’s annually sell 50 ml cubic of water from the sea of Galilea at a favourable price to Jordans. Fresh water that is.’