‘Use water as stepping stone toward peace’
Two experts present ‘road map’ on using natural resource as way to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian talks.
FLOODWATERS FLOW through a barren area. Photo: Tomer Oferi
In an effort to support the possibility of achieving regional peace by beginning
with cooperation on a shared natural resource, representatives of two local
organizations sent US President Barack Obama a “road map” to Middle East peace
that starts with water.
Because of the Palestinian Authority’s “dire
need” for water, Israel’s increased water supply due to desalination and the
joint need between the two to cope with untreated sewage, the issue of water
could serve as a catalyst for generating a future overall peace agreement, the
road map said. Encouraging an agreement on water issues could therefore only
benefit both populations, wrote the authors – Israel director of Friends of the
Earth Middle East Gidon Bromberg and Oded Eran, a senior research associate at
the Institute for National Security Studies and a former ambassador to the
European Union and Jordan.
Bromberg and Eran stressed that they felt that
any water agreement would be a final accord on water and not an interim process,
as was the Oslo agreement of 1993.
Forming such an agreement would help
generate trust between two contentious groups and “give hope to both peoples
that a diplomatic solution to their conflict is possible,” the authors
Meanwhile, because the Israeli government is unlikely to bend on
removing settlements or sharing sovereignty of Jerusalem in the time being, a
more “incremental solution” such as a water agreement could be the “urgently
needed win-win” for the two sides by mapping out the water rights of each group,
the road map said.
In order to move such a plan forward, Bromberg and
Eran suggested first that the Israeli government commit to a measure of goodwill
– providing an additional 30 million cubic meters of water to the Palestinian
Water Authority annually, at no cost, with southern West Bank cities becoming
the first beneficiaries of the water.
For its part, the PA would need to
declare that a World Bank sewage treatment plant planned for Hebron would be
expanded to be able to treat all Palestinian sewage, which currently flows into
Israel, the authors said.
Following these commitments, the two parties
would jointly begin negotiations toward a final water accord, with mediators
suggesting that such talks go on for no more than six months.
itself would be based on principles of economic efficiency, social equality,
ecological sustainability and practicality, the authors wrote. An ideal accord
would mandate the creation of a Bilateral Water Commission, which would replace
today’s Joint Water Committee and make decisions on delivery of shared water and
removal of sewage, as well as rates of water extraction. Within the commission
would be an Office of Science Advisors made up of professional staff from both
sides that could provide recommendations to the larger body.
to the Bilateral Water Commission would be a Water Mediation Board, which would
be able to take action if the commission is unable to accept a decision drafted
by the Office of Science Advisors, the authors explained. Both the commission
and the board would have equal numbers of Israeli and Palestinian
representatives, plus one member from outside the region, they
“The guiding paradigm until this very moment has been that we need
to agree on all the major core issues before there can be any agreement – that
is to say we need to solve Jerusalem, refugees, the whole territorial issues
before we can make an agreement,” Eran told The Jerusalem Post on
“What we propose is changing the paradigm.”
end-goal would remain the same – providing a comprehensive solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Eran stressed that the road map suggests
beginning with feasible “issues that can be agreed upon now.”
the authors, is an obvious issue to begin with because the Palestinians can
benefit almost immediately with increased amounts of the resource to their
villages, and Israel can benefit in the context of coping with environmental
problems posed by sewage, Eran explained.
Before drafting the proposal,
Eran said that he and Bromberg visited the Hebron area to observe the sewage
flowing through the Hebron Stream. The poisonous materials filling those waters
cross through both Palestinian and Israeli urban centers, and into the
Mediterranean Sea, he noted.
Eran said that the authors passed on their
road map to US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who said he would relay the
proposal to the president.
“We would have liked to see the president of
the US launch the negotiations over water and invite the two sides to come to
Washington,” Eran said, noting, however, that they have not yet received a
response. “In our view, this could be done fairly.”
First and foremost,
such a road map to peace has a capacity to be more productive than the Oslo
agreement because it is final rather than temporary, Bromberg added.
creates a precedent that we can reach a final agreement and in the process shows
that there are partners to the process on both sides, and that a mechanism would
be put in place that builds trust between the two parties – which is very much
the missing link,” he said.