MK Erel Margalit.
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
A Mediterranean innovation conference in which Israel and neighboring countries will attempt to help one another will be held this summer under the auspices of the European Parliament, thanks to Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit.
Margalit is the chairman of the Knesset’s delegation to the European Parliament’s Union for the Mediterranean Committee. He faced off against Palestinian and other Arab representatives in Brussels on Monday, but then he changed the dynamic of the debate by saying that the nations of the Mediterranean could help one another.
“They were dealing with the problems of the Middle East, and I turned it around and said they should take our innovation as an opportunity,” Margalit said. “When it comes to innovation, not only are there no boycotts, Israel plays a central role. Europe wants Israel deep in the game, so the potential is exciting.”
The chairman of the committee, Renato Soru, an Italian member of the European Parliament and an entrepreneur, decided to take Margalit’s initiative forward and plan a Mediterranean innovation conference.
Soru and Margalit, who was a successful entrepreneur before entering the Knesset, will plan the event together and provide its vision.
“When countries asked what role they could play at the conference, I said take the most innovative thing you’re doing in your country and present it,” Margalit said.
At Monday’s event, Margalit spoke about the worst drought in centuries the region is facing and noted Israel’s world renowned success in desalination and recycling water. He said Israel was cooperating with Jordan on desalination and the effort could be expanded to other countries in the region.
Margalit said Israel could also contribute its know-how on desert agriculture and on natural gas and energy. He suggested that technology hubs in Israel could cooperate with those of Arab states and the Palestinians, singling out new offices of Cisco Systems and Siemens in Ramallah.
“It was very dramatic,” he said.
“Arab delegates who had shouted at me earlier came up to me and expressed interest. We went to the bar together and learned from each other.”
Monday’s event was attended by 300 European Parliament members, as well as politicians from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Jordan.
Before Margalit changed the subject, he sparred with the Palestinian representative about the current violence and spoke about how residents of Jerusalem had become scared to walk the streets.
When the Palestinian complained about the arson murder of three members of a family in Duma last summer, Margalit said the entire Knesset condemned the attack, and he wished Palestinians would do the same with attacks on Israelis.
“What are you doing to your people who killed civilians?” he asked.
“You are naming streets after them.
We withdrew from Gaza, where we grew crops, and what we got back was missiles and tunnels, and now there are no crops growing.”