In January, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni stressed the need for cross-border cooperation on environmental issues. Now, one month later, environmental leaders from both Israel and Palestine have already taken important steps towards making environmental cooperation a reality.

Speaking to attendees at a conference in Tel Aviv sponsored by Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) and the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Livni, the chief negotiator with the Palestinians, said the continued conflict in the region has made cooperation difficult.

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“It should be a common interest to work together, to share water, to work together toward improving the environment,” Livni pointed out. “Yet the fact that we have this conflict going on for so many years prevents solving these issues.”

Dr. Muhammad Hmaidi, former director-general of the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, agreed. “We all believe that the scarcity of natural resources, the need to protect the environment… Mother Nature cannot wait any longer,” he emphasized at the January conference. “Let us put hands together and protect the environment before it is too late.”

Now, it appears that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have taken positive steps to work together to tackle shared environmental woes and discuss green opportunities.

Meeting with Jamil Matour, acting chairman of the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority in Tel Aviv recently, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz worked with the Palestinian leader to establish a joint Israeli-Palestinian work group to handle waste management and other environmental issues.

Then, just a few days later, Peretz visited a new green village near Ramallah, which is being built to house young families in the territory. After touring Rawabi, the first planned green village in Palestine, Peretz met with Rawabi financier Bashar Masri to learn more about how he made the new green development a reality.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Ministry said that “Peretz and Bashar sat together and discussed several issues related to the development of Rawabi.”

Peretz also used his time with the Palestinian developer to stress his commitment to improved cross-border communication.

“Peretz said [to Bashar] that pollution has no boundaries,” the spokesperson recounted. “Air pollution and polluted creeks don’t really care about fences and the Green Line, so we have to work together.”

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