Green Peace: How Israel and Its Neighbors Are Fighting to Save the Environment Together

August 08, 2022

By Chaim Lax

The past few weeks have seen a rise in temperatures around the globe, with many countries experiencing unprecedented heat waves and devastating wildfires.

Amid warnings by some climate scientists that this is just the beginning of a major environmental upheaval that will include extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, and the dwindling of vital natural resources, many are calling for governments to become more proactive in fighting climate change and protecting the environment.

In Israel, the government has taken the danger of global warming seriously, with the Defense Ministry developing contingency plans for dealing with future heat waves and former prime minister Naftali Bennett announcing the Jewish state’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

However, as noted by President Isaac Herzog in his February 2022 address at the Haaretz and Hebrew University Climate Change Conference, Israel will not be successful in fighting climate change if it tries to go it alone.

In calling for a “renewable Middle East,” Herzog championed the idea of regional cooperation between Israel and its neighbors in fighting climate change, improving the environment, and creating a more sustainable Middle East.

In line with President Herzog’s vision, Israel has been collaborating with several of its regional neighbors for the past few years in an effort to help reverse the effects of climate change and to help make the Middle East more eco-friendly.

When it comes to environmental cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, there are a wide variety of projects being undertaken by both official governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations.

Some notable shared projects between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) include improving waste management in the West Bank, the disposal of sewage, cleaning waterways, agricultural initiatives, and water desalination.

Even the Israeli military is taking part in saving the environment with the Army for the Protection of Nature, a joint venture between the IDF and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel that works to protect the ecosystems in military bases and firing ranges.

Some of these projects, which include protecting the population of bats in the Jericho and Dead Sea regions as well as safeguarding the sea turtles of the Red Sea, have seen success through cooperation with the PA and Jordan.

In the West Bank, Israel is cooperating with Palestinians in order to protect the environment and fight climate change.

And in Gaza, which is currently run by the US-designated terrorist organization Hamas, Israel worked with EcoPeace, an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian environmental group, and other regional actors to build a water treatment plant that helped clean Gazan beaches and improved the quality of the Mediterranean Sea in both Gaza and and southern Israel.

For the first 30 years of its existence, Israel was in a constant state of siege, surrounded by enemy states on all sides.

However, with the signing of peace accords with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994), two of Israel’s former enemies have turned into neighbors who are now partners in protecting the environment and counteracting the effects of climate change.

For both Israel and Jordan, a major environmental concern is water scarcity. In fact, the worry over access to water is so great that the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan contained a number of articles concerning the sharing of water resources and cooperation in maintaining water quality.

Now, 30 years later, Israel and Jordan are still collaborating on water projects, including a pact that would see Israel sell more water to Jordan, the rehabilitation of the Jordan River, and the future conveyance of salt water from the Red Sea to the dwindling Dead Sea.

In 2021, Israel, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement that would see Jordan build a solar field and export energy to Israel in exchange for the transfer of desalinated water from Israel to Jordan. This agreement has been referred to as the “largest renewable energy project in the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s environmental cooperation with Egypt is focused more on cleaner energy and reducing carbon emissions. To this end, Jerusalem and Cairo signed an agreement in November 2021 to work on increasing the exportation of natural gas from Israel to Egypt.

Following the signing of the agreement, Karine Elharrar, Israel’s energy minister, issued a statement, saying “We see the Arab Republic of Egypt as an important partner in ensuring regional energy stability and in the effort against the climate crisis.”

In addition, Israel plans to attend the United Nations’ upcoming COP27 summit in Egypt, which will focus on the climate crisis in the Middle East. At the summit, Israel is hoping to showcase its state-of-the-art climate technology, with a focus on its innovations surrounding water.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords in August 2020, both the Israeli government and private Israeli companies have been working towards promoting environmental cooperation between the Jewish state, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

In January 2021, Israel’s EDF Renewables forged a deal with the UAE’s Masdar fund that would see the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy projects in Israel, including solar fields.

The two companies are also looking to cooperate on projects that would help Israel reach its goal of increasing its renewable energy production by 2030.

In July 2021, Israel and the UAE signed an agricultural agreement that would see cooperation between the two states on research and development, water management, and irrigation. This agreement is particularly important as food scarcity becomes a real possibility due to the ongoing climate crisis.

With Bahrain, Israel has entered into an agreement to collaborate on the development of climate technologies and is also working on boosting cooperation between the two countries in order to reduce the effect of climate change, improve the environment, and preserve natural ecosystems.

With a climate crisis looming on the horizon, it is heartening to see Israel and its regional neighbors setting aside their differences and working together in order to offset the effects of climate change, protect the environment, and create a more sustainable Middle East.

However, given that this is such meaningful and timely news, why is the media seemingly silent on these developments?

When so many people are becoming interested in environmental issues, shouldn’t cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors be used as a model for how countries can effectively work together to benefit the environment?

It’s time for the media to put greater focus on the positive developments occurring in the Middle East, and not only draw attention to the divisive aspects of the region.

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