Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon signed a new 10-year agreement to pursue scientific and technical cooperation across a range of natural-resource management areas.
The Memorandum of Understanding authorizes joint research activities, conferences and symposia and exchanges of scientific and technical information between Interior agencies and the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures. The areas of cooperation include Earth science studies, geospatial data applications, biological investigations, water resources development and historical and archaeological resource protection.
"This agreement not only continues the department's tradition of scientific and technical exchange programs with the Israeli government but also expands the areas of cooperation between us," Interior Secretary Norton said. "We have many common interests and problems and can learn from each other on subjects ranging from water conservation to archaeological resource protection."
"The issues covered in this agreement are of great importance to both Israel and the USA and the expertise and experience we both possess is more complementary than competitive," Ambassdor Ayalon said. "This is a good start for any cooperation agreement and specifically for an agreement between our great countries which are both at the cutting edge of science and technology and which have a long tradition of cooperation in so many areas."
The MOU establishes a new framework for the exchange of information that will help to augment the scientific capabilities of the Interior Department and Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructures. The 10-year agreement is renewable, costs are paid by the party that incurs them, and intellectual property rights created or furnished under the information exchanges are protected.
The MOU expands on previous Interior agreements with Israeli government agencies. The U.S. Geological Survey has been cooperating with Israeli counterparts on a number of scientific and technical exchange projects, including groundwater resource management, earthquake hazard analysis and airborne geophysical surveys. USGS views this Memorandum of Understanding as an opportunity to expand collaborative work with both the Geophysical Institute of Israel and the Geological Survey of Israel.
Future collaboration may include evaluating new geophysical tools to locate ground water resources, locating sinkholes forming along the margins of the Dead Sea prior to ground failure and damage to the region's infrastructure and evaluating the environmental impacts of developing a canal between the Dead and Red Seas.
Interior's Bureau of Reclamation has worked with the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture on water resources exchange programs since 1984. Those cooperative efforts focused on desalination technology, agricultural drainage and controlling seepage in reservoirs through the use of flexible membrane liners.
Reclamation has long recognized the important contributions made by Israeli counterparts in desalination and has been cooperating with them in the Middle East Desalination Research Center in Muscat, Oman. The center was formed under the auspices of the Middle East Peace Process.
"This has been a mutually beneficial relationship, and both sides have benefited in water-resource management through these programs," Norton said. "We look forward to cooperating with our Israeli colleagues in organizing a workshop on desalination costing, which will be held later this year in Cyprus."