U.S.-Israel Cooperation in
Americans and Israelis share an interest in the
quality of their environment. And, perhaps even more so than in the
United States, environmental
issues are tied to Israeli security concerns. In particular, the
shortage of water poses
a severe threat to Israels economy and is a factor in peace talks
with its neighbors. Dr. Kenneth Foster of the University of Arizona
has noted that Israel is not only at the forefront of water and
resource conservation technology, but Israelis are motivated by a
social and political consciousness that stresses the importance of
conservation and proper utilization of the land (Near East Report,
July 8, 1991).
Within a year of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on
the Human Environment, the Israeli Environmental Protection Service
(EPS) was established. Since then, Israel has become widely
recognized as a leader in environmental protection. Israel has a
series of laws dealing with the environment, specifically the areas
of air and noise pollution, fresh water quality, marine pollution,
hazardous substances and solid waste and protection of nature.
A 1993 analysis of Israels policy concluded
that Israel has found inventive solutions to age-old problems
(Environmental Science & Technology, July 1993). A year earlier,
Newsweek (June 1, 1992) rated 30 countries on three measures that
strongly affect the planets health: population, forests and
pollution. Israel was one of only three countries (Costa Rica and
France were the others) rated good on each environmental
Given the strong environmental awareness in
Israel, and the advances made there in certain areas of research, it
is logical that the United States should engage in cooperative
ventures with the Jewish State.
In 1991, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in
the field of environmental protection was signed between the
Environmental Protection Agency and the Israeli Ministry of the
Environment calling for exchanges of scientific and technical
information; visits of scientific personnel; cooperation in holding
workshops and cooperative research projects. This MOU is
automatically renewed every five years unless either parties
expresses a desire to terminate it. Little has been done directly
under the MOU because no money was committed to implementation.
In 1993, three U.S. organizations arranged a
workshop for Middle East leaders to discuss the problems of small
community sanitation and water reuse in the Middle East. The
Department of State (DOS), the U.S. Agency for International
Development Program (UNDP) and the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA)
provided attendees with information and software to assist their
planning of future wastewater systems in small communities.
The U.S. sponsored a follow-up workshop on June
12-15, 1994, in Cairo to explore the next steps in providing
technical assistance for small community wastewater facilities
planning. A total of 35 participants came to the meeting, including
Israeli, Egyptian, Jordanian, Moroccan, Omani, Palestinian and
Tunisian waste-water experts and representatives of the U.S., Russia,
the World Bank and UNDP. It was jointly sponsored by the Multilateral
Working Groups on Environment and Water Resource.
The Presidents Environmental Technology
Initiative also proposed and funded a project to deal with the same
issues of wastewater collection, treatment and reuse in the Middle
East. The project employed top U.S. professionals in the field along
with U.S. manufacturers who examined specific technology to solve
small community problems. Agreements were then negotiated with
regional scientists and engineers to evaluate the technology and
deliver assessments at regional forums in November 1996. In Israel,
an evaluation was funded to deal with lagoon-reservoir-reuse systems.
Part of this plan was the Peace Process project, in which a regional
team of experts traveled to potential sites in different countries
and chose the Village of Taffough in Hebron
for construction of wastewater facilities. U.S. donor organizations,
the World Bank, USAID and UNDP, are monitoring the construction.
The Center for Environmental Research (CERI),
operating at the request of the EPA Office of Water, is sponsoring a
project similar to the one in Hebron
in Jenin, a small village in the Northern area of the West Bank. This
project will used the same advanced technology used in the Hebron
project to benefit Jenin crops. It is still in the development stage.
In the fall of 1998, representatives from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the Israeli Ministry of
Environment, in conjunction with the Air and Waste Management
Association and the Environmental Technologies Council participated
in a Hazardous Waste Management workshop in Israel designed to train
the Israeli private sector in hazardous waste management and to share
information on U.S. private sector technologies in the field. As a
follow-up, representatives from the Israeli Ministry of the
Environment and the private sector talked to U.S. industry
representatives in an attempt to attract U.S. industry to Israel to
address environmental efforts in the areas of sludge, waste
management, coal desulfurization and dyking containment.
Also in 1998, the U.S.-Israel
Science and Technology Commission sponsored a program on Regional
Middle East Environmental Harmonization at the 5th World Congress of
Chemical engineering in which representatives from Israel, Jordan,
the Palestinian authority, and Egypt participated. As a result, the
MENA-PeaceNet web site now contains each of the member countries
environmental regulatory framework.
The nonprofit, non-government branch of the
Commission, the U.S. Science and Technology Foundation, has allocated
several million dollars to fund projects with new technology relating
to the environment. One major project relates to toxic waste cleanup
at a site in Israel called Ramat Hovav. The Foundation has $80
million worth of projects currently in progress relating to almost
every aspect of the environment from solar power concentration to
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently
began to assist in the development and implementation of a sister
lakes environmental exchange program between Lake Winnipesaukee of
New Hampshire and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in Israel. The focus
of this project will be on technical exchange programs, comparative
study of water quality use and data, and the establishment of a
volunteer citizens-based water quality monitoring program.