In a statement to the panel Hydro-Diplomacy: A Path to Peace, at the For’UM Conference on Innovation, which took place in Paris on May 31, Israel Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan called for keeping the water issue out of the political conflict. He noted to other ministers in the room from the Midde East North Africa Region that water scarcity and water source pollution threaten both the Israeli and Palestinian populations and said that if the issues of water supply and political conflict are not separated, cooperation and a solution to the water problems plaguing the entire population of the region will not be reached.
The Paris conference took place under the patronage of Mr. Alain Juppe, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs at the initiative of Ms. Valerie Hoffenberg, France’s special representative to the Middle East, and was organized in cooperation with the Union for the Mediterranean. The For’UM focused on four main areas – water, energy, food security and information and communication technologies.
Minister Erdan participated in the panel on “Hydro-diplomacy: A Path to Peace” which aimed to come up with regional solutions to the water scarcity problems in the region as a path toward cooperation and peace.
He was joined in the round table discussion by Shadad Attili, President of the Palestinian Water Authority, Mohammad Najjar, Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, Mr. Jafaar Hassan, Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation and Mr. Rafik Husseini, Deputy Director General of the UFM.
By 2025, 90% of the population in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to suffer water shortages. Urgent action is therefore needed. At the For’UM, France joined the Middle East Desalination Research Centre, the only multilateral institution that has survived the Oslo Accords.
The Middle East has considerable solar energy potential, accounting for possibly up to 45% of potential global renewable energy reserves. Skills and expertise urgently need to be developed at a regional level to tap this potential and generate jobs, the forum organizers stated.
Minister Erdan noted that Israel currently supplies the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza with much larger quantities of water than those specified in the 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
He went on to say that water source pollution presents a threat to both populations.
Therefore discussions should focus on the water needs of the two populations and not on rights to water sources. In order to reach solutions and avoid a stalemate, he said, we must separate the political conflict from the existential questions which relate to water supply to the populations and protection of water sources.
Erdan reiterated the commitment of the government of Israel to help find regional solutions to the water problem and to help as much as possible to create the stability that will enable governments and companies to invest in water and sewage infrastructure, including investment in the construction of desalination facilities for the benefit of the residents of Gaza.