Peace in the Middle East through cooperation on water infrastructure projects



The question of how to create a true, just and sustainable peace in Israel and Palestine (I/P) is now firmly at the top of the international agenda. There is a political agenda to be pursued by diplomats, on which Greens have much to say, but there is also a uniquely ecological dimension to the problem that the Green Party can profitably work on. This paper proposes that the approach taken by Friends of the Earth Middle East, for both communities to co-operate in projects relating to water management, should be adopted, expanded, and supported by the Green Party. It should be introduced as a fresh, interesting policy point in the current EP elections, specifically calling for the EU actively to commit resources to the Water Project.

It is right and necessary for European Greens to take a constructive interest in I/P matters, since everything on the surface of Earth is interconnected, and the deep division of opinion there is reflected in tension within our European society. Also, if the conflict escalates to a major war, Europe will be affected, especially as Israel is capable of using nuclear weapons.

The proposal is that we should put out a brief paper making the case for the EU to support the Water Project in Israel/Palestine. This will be put forward as a press release, putting it into the electoral arena.

In terms of the election, this gives us the initiative. It injects a fresh theme into the Euro-election debate, which is otherwise desperately non-newsworthy. It puts our LabLibCon competitors onto the back foot, into a reactive position, if presenters should ask them "What do you think of the Green Party's suggestion of both communities working together on the water supply in Israel and Palestine?"

Naturally, they will tend to respond "Oh, that's just naïve!"; but this gives us the opportunity to explain exactly why it is not naïve.

In the longer term, (looking beyond June 4th) GPEW can persuade the European Green Party and the US Green Party to draw together a coalition of green and peace NGOs in I/P with the aim of persuading funding organisations, primarily the EU and the USA, to put significant amounts of money into a cross-community Water Management Project in I/P.

The Rationale

There are two established principles in conflict resolution: first, find common ground that is of interest and benefit to both parties, and second, introduce a displacement activity to divert attention away from conflict to co-operation, from destruction to construction.

The common ground for both communities in I/P is, literally, their common ground: they need to win a sustainable living out of an arid land. The population in the Land has increased since 1946, and this means that the productivity of the land must be increased to meet the needs of the people there. Water is needed to increase agricultural productivity, and at present water is in short supply throughout the Middle East. This scarcity is itself a potential cause for conflict, but intelligent action can transform water into a cause of resolution of conflict. Indeed, there is evidence that water work has helped the cause of international peace.
"Today…it is time to stop propagating threats of 'water wars' and aggressively pursue a water peacemaking strategy International water disputes - even among fierce enemies - are generally resolved peacefully, even as conflicts erupt over other issues.
Why? Because water is so important that nations cannot afford to fight over it.
Instead, water fuels greater interdependence. By coming together to manage their shared water resources jointly, countries can build trust and help prevent conflict".

We would be aiming for a massive programme of investment and employment in water conservation, water harvesting, and afforestation. This will require significant financial investment, and the EU is one potential source for such, although other agencies could be tapped also. We know that peace in Northern Ireland came about after massive infrastructure investment in that country.

The Water Project programme comprises water conservation, water harvesting and afforestation.

Water Conservation

1 Recycling of grey water.
We can be sure this is happening already, but it needs to be universal, and in towns some technology - such as filters - may be needed.

2 Composting toilets should be used instead of water-mediated sewerage systems.
There are many working models for this approach which we can tap into. The Water Project can trial the many technologies on offer, and the most successful models can be rolled out across the whole ME. Composting toilets replace the conventional water- and energy-intensive system with a natural system which actually enhances the fertility and structure of the soil.

3 In places where boreholes are used, attention should be paid to the levels of water, and if these levels are falling, conservation measures in the locality should be intensified.

Water Harvesting

Every roof should be a water collecting point, and every building should have a water holding cistern appropriate to the size of the roof. This will create many thousands of jobs in both communities, work that requires little training. It will require a large amount of guttering, piping and cisterns, probably made of plastic, preferably recycled. Some of this may come from established and new factories in both communities, some may come from the EU.

This activity will stimulate worthwhile production and good jobs in line with Green policies to create good work as a response to the global recession, and will therefore help to relieve the poverty that is endemic in Gaza. This will link in with our campaign on the Green New Deal.


Forests act as aerial aquifers, conducting water inland from the sea in the evapotranspiration cycle. Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement finds that an area of trees in Kenya of 15 square kilometres will create its own rain cloud.
Please see the Desert Rose Project for an outline proposal for (re)creating coastal forests, using water from solar desalination plants, and gradually working inland. Forests moderate the local (and, eventually, global) climate, and provide many other goods and services that are advantageous to the local community.

There are already projects of this nature taking place in Israel. The aim should be to expand them with new investment.

By putting in place these - and other - measures, there will be plenty of work for all people in both communities, with a resulting increase in general prosperity, and a decrease in available time and energy spent in ruminating on injustices and planning of revenge for same.

There is a wealth of experience in these matters within Friends of the Earth Middle East, who have been working on this for many years. They have in-depth knowledge of these matters

The present proposal is that GPEW should adopt this proposal, put it forward in the Euro-election, and also put it to the European Green Party, to the Green Group in the European Parliament, and to the United States' Green Party. Working in cooperation with FoEME, the Israel Green Party, the Israel Green Parties (one of the three has expressed interest already) and as many of the Palestinian Green NGOs as we can contact, we will press for funding to be made available for a serious and expanding approach to water management which will continue until no more can be done to improve the situation.

In working toward this goal, we will be
· assisting the peace process at street level with constructive and economically worthwhile activity
· alleviating water shortages
· producing more productive agriculture
· providing a model that can be applied throughout the Middle East and in other arid and conflict-ridden regions.

GPEW Policy aspect

The first objection to this proposal is that it is not in MfSS or RoPS. This is regrettably true. We have no strategic policy on IP, only a few ad hoc condemnations of violent and militaristic policies. Our policy process has been stalled for 18 months, with no paper to discuss, and only a perpetual polarised and polarising discussion on the email lists.

However, this need not be a problem. This project is about peace and ecological sustainability. Who in the green party could therefore possibly object to this proposal?

If there were some problems put forward, Political Committee could give the go-ahead, and get ratification from GPEx, who could in turn get ratification at the next Conference.

The second objection will be that it is too late in the day to launch this. This is not so.
I can expand the present document to specification in one week, and all it takes is a media release.

So I hope that we can agree on this new initiative calculated to benefit not just our election campaign, but also to further Green politics in the real world, and most of all, really help to stop the suffering of all people in the Middle East.

Dr Richard Lawson
North Somerset GP
Saturday, 18 April 2009

© 2001 R. Lawson