I was astonished to discover over 60 positive news stories since July 2010 that never appeared anywhere except in the Israeli press. In this issue, I have just selected the areas that Israel has worked to bring environmental and economic assistance to the Palestinian Arabs.
In the Middle East, water is sometimes more important than blood. In Arab-Israeli peace talks, a whole track is devoted to the issue of fair distribution of water rights. Prior to the six-day war in 1967, most Arabs living in Judea and Samaria had no main water as Jordan was uninterested in providing them access to this vital resource. By 1991, 210 Arab towns in the territories had been connected to a running water system and Israel had transformed their farming using modern irrigation techniques. Just last month (June), Israelis, Palestinian Arabs and Jordanians built EcoCentres to make the most of scarce water supplies. Students from Israel, the PA, Malta, Lebanon, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Turkey and the UK are working together currently on a project to protect their unique shared ecosystem.
In an effort to reduce the ‘bitterness’ of any water dispute, Israel ran a weeklong seminar in February to educate thirty participants from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority on desalination technologies, covering design, operation and maintenance of water desalination plants. Since October, scientists from Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been working together to improve water purification for the region and beyond. And since December, Israel and the PA have been working together on a project to clean up sewage in Jordan Valley. Things have been working so well that in August the Arab-Israeli Eco group (Friends of the Earth Middle East) won the “Intercultural Dialogue for Ecological Sustainability” award. The group consisting of Jordanian, Palestinian Arabs, and Israeli environmentalists seeks to advance “sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region.”
Turning to economic growth, despite the signing of the agreement between Fatah and the Hamas terrorist organization, Israel continues to co-operate with the Palestinian Authority and to help it prosper. When Arabs work for Israelis, their employers are recognized as the best compared to every alternative. This research report was produced by the Palestinian Arab news agency. Palestinian Arabs have one of the world’s highest percentages of home ownership – over 80% - even in Gaza. Again, these are the PA’s own figures. Improved relations have led to an economic boom in the territories, with growth estimated at an annual rate of 8 percent. Ramallah’s construction boom is one of the most obvious signs of this benefit.
In a specific example of co-operation, in the Palestinian Authority controlled city of Hebron – where the world’s media only ever reports conflict – the Israeli Kibbutz Afikim has used its world-leading technology to build a dairy farm for the Arabs. This will combat the milk shortage in the Palestinian Authority. At an international agricultural fair in Tel Aviv in March, some 400 Palestinian Arab farmers joined thousands of Israelis and received help from Israeli farming innovations. The cooperation has extended into the hi-tech arena. Palestinian Arab software engineers at Asal Technologies in Ramallah are coding software as outsourcers for an Israeli life sciences software firm.
In Gaza, its Hamas terrorist rulers stifle co-operation, however despite this, Israel transfers 15,000 tons of supplies to Gaza every week. In two months Israel transferred 133 million liters of fuel to Gaza – enough to power every car and truck in Israel! Read this about medical aid. There are no construction problems either. In June, Israel approved the delivery of $100 million of materials needed to build 1,200 new homes and 18 new schools in Gaza. As a Sudanese official stated in the Palestinian Arab press before the first flotilla “Where is the siege? I don''t see it in Gaza. I wish Sudan''s residents could live under the conditions of the Gazan siege.”
Finally, an Israeli plastics factory employs 50% Israelis and 50% Palestinian Arabs to manufacture (among other things) toilet seats. It gives another meaning to “low-level co-operation.” Perhaps the intransigent PA could learn from them and discover the secret of how to sit down to peace talks!
In the final part of this series, you will see some of the examples of where Israelis and Palestinian Arabs get together outside of the working environment; plus some facts about co-existence that you may be unaware of.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.