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In the Middle East, the consequences of climate change are already a reality of life. The region is one of the most water-stressed areas in the world, the average temperature is rising faster than elsewhere, and a massive reduction in rainfall is also expected for the coming years. Adding to the conflicts and quarrels – ranging from the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to Syria and Iraq as well as to rivalries between Iran and the Gulf states – access to and use of natural resources act as yet another crisis amplifier in the region: water is as important here as land ownership and as precious as access to oil.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is addressing the relevance of sustainable resource security in the Middle East with a trilateral project in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. Our partner is EcoPeace Middle East. The non-governmental organisation is the only transnational organisation in this field where Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians work together on equal footing to develop mutual strategies for sustainable resource security and make the case for regional cooperation in energy and water supply. The issue is not only relevant for environment policy in the region, but also entails a security policy dimension. Not least, the question of an equitable water supply has been and will continue to be an issue in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
In order to generate positive mutual dependencies in the water and energy sectors, a feasibility study is at the centre of the cooperation between EcoPeace Middle East and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung office in Ramallah. The study takes into account the different challenges facing the respective countries: since 2005, the Gaza Strip, home to two million people, has been under a blockade. Gaza’s only aquifier is 95 percent contaminated; the United Nations have calculated that the area could no longer be inhabitable by 2020. Palestinians in the West Bank have limited water access rights, while Jordan faces additional challenges due to the Syrian refugee crisis. This exacerbates the problem of water shortage ever further for Palestinians and Jordanians in an already arid region such as the Middle East. Israel, meanwhile, has developed into an exporter of drinking water due to advances in seawater desalination.
This is where the shared vision of the project comes into play: Gaza and Israel are to desalinate seawater, while Jordan generates solar power and the West Bank generates wind power. The plan is for the mutual exchange of crucial resources to give way to constructive interdependencies. Water and energy cooperation holds the prospect of sustainable development in an atmosphere of deescalation and rapprochement – because if we are able to cooperate with political decision-makers and experts from business and the civil society to bring about a common understanding in a very concrete policy area, this can also act to build trust and thereby have a positive effect on establishing a regional framework for peace.
With the adoption of Resolution 2334 by the United Nations Security Council and the Paris peace conference, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has moved back into the focus of the international community. While the decisions in New York and Paris were made without involvement by Israel or the Palestinians, at the same time, the conflict parties agreed to a new water treaty. The international attention and successful agreement in the sensitive field of resource distribution go to show: there can be positive movements in the deadlocked conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.