Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | December 13, 2011

Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan and Palestinian Minister of Water Dr. Shaddad Attilli Agreed on the Need to Reexamine the Operation and Structure of the Joint Water Committee

A heated discussion took place on Israeli Palestinian water issues today (Tuesday, December 13) at the Ashdod Sustainability Conference between the Israeli Minister of Environmental Protection, Gilad Erdan, and the Palestinian Minister of Water, Dr. Shaddad Attilli. This was the first time the Ministers met in Israel publicly to discuss issues in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, such as water allocation, responsibility for pollution of shared streams, and more.

The discussion took place as part of the panel “Cross-Border Waters and Regional Sustainability” with the participation of Ministers Gilad Erdan and Shaddad Attilli, and moderated by Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, who invited the Palestinian Minister to the conference. The discussion focused on the five principles of sustainable management of cross-border waters, in the context of a Draft “Model Water Agreement between Israelis and Palestinians” published by Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Minister Erdan said that: “There is need for cooperation and joint work on environmental issues. When our water sources are contaminated, your water resources are contaminated, and vice versa. I believe that the issue of water needs to stay out of the conflict; water can, and should, be the basis for cooperation. Focusing on water rights is focusing on the conflict. Focusing on water should be around solutions.”

Palestinian Water Minister, Dr. Shaddad Attilli: “It is clear to everyone that water is an issue that hovers above politics….  We just want an equitable amount of the shared waters, not all the waters of the Israelis.”

Dr. Attilli focused his criticism of the poor functioning of the Joint Water Committee (JWC): “Israeli policy prevents us from dealing with sewage problems and water pollution. Even when the Joint Water Committee approves a project, then the bureaucracy of the Civil Administration detains us for many years. We must change the structure an operation of the committee so that we Palestinians get an equitable share of water.”

In response, Minister Erdan called on the Palestinians to engage in a daily dialogue with him in order to reach specific solutions to problems that arise in the field: “If we want to overcome the problems, we have to meet. If Minister Attili tells me what the problems are, we can help solve them.”

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, and moderator of the panel concluded: “What is clear to all sides is that the Joint Water Committee has failed both peoples.” Bromberg announced the panel a great success, bringing with it a good omen: “The Ministers have agreed for the first time that the Joint Water Committee is not working for the good of both peoples, and agreed – each in his own way – to promote a change of the committee’s structure / operation.”

For more information: Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, Friends of the Earth Middle East; gidon@foeme.org; 052-4532597

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