“We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown
and when strawberries bloom in Israel”
– Golda Meir
Israelis tend to think the
United Nations preoccupies itself with classic political issues, but the reality
is different. On taking office, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, declared
his priority would be promoting worldwide sustainable development.
month, in Brazil, the Rio+20 Conference met to discuss sustainable development.
The conference attracted over 100 heads of state and 50,000 participants. For
Israel the conference was a considerable success.
development” is economic growth in which resource use aims to meet human needs,
while preserving the environment so these needs can be met for generations to
Israel’s success at Rio+20 was not guaranteed. The Syrian
government tried to ban two Israeli environmental organizations from
participating – the JNF and Life and Environment (an organization representing
130 Israeli environmental NGOs). At the very time the Syrian regime is
slaughtering its own people, it has time to launch a diplomatic attack on
Israel. A worldwide Israeli diplomatic campaign ensured that the Syrian ploy
The Palestinians failed to have their status upgraded at the
conference to that of a full-state member. Unfortunately Palestinian Foreign
Minister Riyad al-Maliki chose to use his speech as a platform to attack Israel
rather than talking about cooperation and the environment.
delegation came to Rio+20 with a vision of sustainable development for the
world. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his greetings, said that Israel is
a country that manages to “do more with less,” and in the future expects to do
even more with much less.
Israel’s ability to do more with less and
successes in sustainable development have brought international recognition,
causing a number of UN and international figures to describe Israel as a
Dr. Daniel Hillel from Israel was recently
awarded the World Food Prize for pioneering an innovative way of bringing water
to crops in arid and dry-land regions. CNN selected Yosef Abramowitz, founder of
the Arava Power Company, as one of six world leading “green pioneers.”
2008, Time magazine named Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, the company
responsible for introducing the electric car, as one of the “environmental
heroes” of the year.
In a further sign of international recognition, the
head of the Israeli delegation to Rio +20, Environmental Protection Minister
Gilad Erdan, was elected vice chairman of the Conference.
In his meetings
with colleagues from around the world, many expressed a desire to increase
partnership with Israel, mainly in water management.
This is hardly
surprising: Israel is the world’s leader in water re-use and recycling. Israel
treats and recycles 80 percent of effluent water for agriculture. There are 35
desalination facilities in Israel. The Ashkelon desalination plant is the
world’s second largest.
Israel is a world leader in desalination and by
2015, 75% of Israel’s water supply will come from water desalination. The UN
General Assembly recently adopted an Israeli proposed resolution calling for
international investment in agricultural technology.
Israel is also a
world leader in forestry as we implement Ben-Gurion’s dream of making the desert
bloom – and one of the only countries that had more trees at the end of the 20th
century than at the start.
Thousands of experts flock to Israel every two
years to attend WATEC: The Israel Water Technologies, Renewable Energies and
Environmental Control exhibition. This November, Eilat- Eilot, the largest
renewable energy conference of its kind will be held in Eilat.
1958, MASHAV (Israel’s agency for international development cooperation at the
Foreign Ministry) has brought to Israel over 270,000 professionals from across
the globe to take courses, learn from experts and see sustainable development in
practice. Israeli experts have also been sent to the developing world to run
During the Rio+20 conference the Israeli government, for
the first time, invested in an international campaign on CNN branding Israel as
a world leader in green technology. The Foreign Ministry launched a Facebook
Page called “GREEN ISRAEL” and an environmental YouTube channel.
places around the world suffer severe drought. Millions in Africa face
life-threatening hunger. Israel is willing and able to continue to share its
technology and know-how with the world and be a “light unto the nations” of
In the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I will make
the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Chapter 41,
verse 18) The writer is the coordinator for Sustainable Development in Israel’s
Foreign Ministry and was a member of the delegation to the Rio+20
Previously he was the Minister for Congressional Affairs at
the Israeli Embassy in Washington.