For far too long, at their core, core approaches on ‘both’ sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have promoted and pursued tactics and strategies that, fundamentally, undermine the achievement of long-term improvements in the situation for the overall populace of either ‘party’.
Moving ahead, amid bombings and mounting casualties, requires leadership, leadership willing to stand up and say: “continuing on this path will, for all of us, worsen the future for us, our children, and our children’s children.” While this might be beyond the leadership, might be beyond the state of the populace (on all ‘sides’, with built up anger and grievances craving revenge and release in violence), it doesn’t require even enlightened leadership to understand the bankruptcy of current approaches.
And, in fact, the outside world might have the ability to offer a serious enough carrot (perhaps with serious enough stick) to bring both Israelis and Palestinians to the table, with a desire to avoid utter bankruptcy, to change the path to foster a better future for all concerns, as ‘sides’ and as some for of larger collectivity.
The answer: the common enemy of global warming and fossil fuel energy dependency impoverishment creating the opportunity for a powerful path toward prosperity.
To say that the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab conflict has been an intractable element of international politics is an understatement along the lines of saying that George the W’s Administration hasn’t been weak on Global Warming. It is hard to state these sad truths wrongly enough.
And, the most recent realities of killed Hamas policemen and Palestinian infants only underline the intractability of the situation. A situation that, too often, seems simply beyond improvement.
In many ways, Israel is the more “powerful” player in the strictest ‘bi-polar’ conception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, from that perspective, let us look at the potential from that viewpoint.
The Israeli Defense Minister standing before the press, belligerency abandoned, a sheaf of photos in his hands and, as he begins to speak, his voice breaks. “In these photos, I see my own children. I see my grandchildren.” With that he lays out, with a fling of his wrist, on the table photos of dead and wounded Israeli and Palestinian children from years, days, hours pass. One photo remains in his hands, an Arab man, about his age, tears streaming down his eyes with a bloodied infant in his arms. “This is not a future I wish on myself or my enemies, to hold their dying child in their arms, looking forward to a life of grieving. The time is past for such grieving. As a father, as a grandfather to be, I say enough. Enough.” A pause to recoup his form. “Enough. It is time to conceive and create a better future for my children, for your children, for our children. Israel is now declaring itself to a strong ceasefire. We have contacted several other nations to open up a supply of basic food and medicine into Gaza, under inspection for weapons and contraband, as a second step to start the process toward something better for all our children …”
The conversation, however, then turns.
“As Minister of Defence, I am responsible for considering the defense of the State of Israel. Israeli policy has, sadly, helped foster an environment where we have failed ourselves in concentrating our efforts against some of our greatest threats which, in fact, are threats to Palestinians and to Israelis and our individual and collective ability to prosper in these lands. In short, I am referring to our use of fossil fuels and the threats of Global Warming. While Israel is now taking serious steps to change our path on fossil fuel use, today, as a third step, I am reaching out to open the process for a joint Israeli-Palestinian program to change the very nature of energy production, water resource conception, and agriculture in a path that will greatly enrich and secure both Israelis and Palestinians. And, through our mutual efforts, create an environment for greater prosperity and security for our two societies, whether living separately or intertwined, for my children, your children, our children … and their children.”
Solar-Powering a path to the Future?
In the face of Peak Oil, amid Global Warming, and the reality of ever heightened tensions, the ‘sustainability’ path might be core to finding a path toward sustainable peace in the region.
Let us postulate a few things. Whether state creation myth or otherwise, Israel has:
- Successfully “greened” the desert and conducted significant reforestration;
- Developed advances in desert agricultural techniques that, at times and in places, they have ‘exported’, with technical assistance, to other nations/societies;’
- Deployed renewable energy (especially solar hot water) and have companies that are leading edge in some renewable energy domains.
- Committed itself, via Better Place, to an all-electric (new) automobile fleet by 2018, with 100% of the electricity for the vehicles to come from renewable electricity sources (mainly solar power from the Negev Desert).
And, much like the Jewish Diaspora, a good number of Palestinians (in diaspora and otherwise) have found solace and opportunity in the pursuit of education, including technical and engineering education. If Israel/Israelis have been leading edge in some technical domains and in desert agriculture, if the bridges can be made, Palestinians could be strong partners for strengthening that technology and ‘exporting’ technology/techniques through a large swath of the world.
But, what are some of these visions and techniques. Why should they matter?
Let’s take a look, for a moment, at Desertrec/TREC, a European vision for a renewable energy project that would link from Iceland to Saudi Arabia. One of the core technologies to be used would be concentrated solar thermal power (CSTP) for generating electricity. CSTP, which is getting a bit of attention (for reason), has the potential for quite serious benefits beyond just the cleanly generated electricity:
- Desalinization of water as a ‘by-product’ of electrical power generation
- Shaded areas under the mirrors of CSP plants are protected from the full glare of harsh tropical sunlight and may be used for many purposes, including horticulture using desalinated sea water.
Rather relying on oil or other polluting sources for electricity, from Saudi Arabia through Morocco (including Israel), imagine CSTP providing the electrical power.
Imagine the jobs that would be created to build and operate the systems.
Imagine, the farmland that could be created with the water coming from these plants.
Imagine the potential ‘greening the desert’ that could occur via a marriage of CSTP, desalinization of water, biochar from the burning of agricultural wastes enriching the soil while sequestering carbon.
Imagine this as a path toward reduced tensions.
Imagine, if …
Imagine if a leadership stepped forward within Israel (prompted by friends of Israel, like J-Street, as discussed here) to foster CSTP electrical power generation for the Gaza strip, providing not just reliable non-polluting energy but also a source for fresh water and good jobs. To provide not just electricity, but also a building block toward sustainability, including toward sustainable piece.
Will Israeli security be better served through generating ever greater hatred through the killing and maiming of Palestinians (whether ‘combatants’ or three-year-old children) and an ever greater impoverishment of Palestinian populations or through fostering a path toward economic betterment among those with whom Israelis (eventually?) want to have peace?
And, for the globe, in the face of Peak Oil and Global Warming and conflict, would not paths for renewable power through this part of the globe, renewable power that means more than just electricity, be a fruitful path to pursue?
CSTP is not the only thing to consider.
The adoption of biochar to foster ever-healthier (and productive) soil while sequestering carbon.
The creation of a region-wide smart grid (a la TREC) to foster ever-greater efficiency in use of energy and the ability to move energy efficiently across the region to help cover intermittency of power.
Is their a path to energize the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic from a cycle of ever-greater destructiveness to future prospects to something offer the promise of a better tomorrow?
Could an Energy Smart vision become a reality to help foster reduced Arab-Israeli tensions while also helping the globe navigate through the perfect the perfect storm of economic devastation, Peak Oil, and Global Warming?
Imagine an Israeli Minister of Defence standing up to speak truth …
Imagine … an Israeli population and Palestinian population ready to listen.
Imagine … a mutual recognition of a common threat and a common opportunity.
Imagine … a readiness to confront that threat and seize that opportunity.
Imagine … how little it might take, in terms of international aid to start this process moving forward and to entrench it solidly. $5 billion? $10 billion? What price is it worth to the international community to foster a path toward a far less polluting, prosperity enhancing, peace reinforcing Israeli-Palestinian dynamic? What if the international community were to offer up, “we will fund this in Israel, in the Palestinian territories / Palestine (either / or / both …) / Jordan / Sinai portions of Egypt. Join in and we’ll fund you. Chose to sit out and watch your neighbors prosper.” Hmmm … Would Israel? Would Egypt? Would the Palestinians? Would Jordan? Would any of the key actors sit out this opportunity?
NOTE: To be clear, the concept that sustainable energy could transform the prospect for Middle Eastern peace is far from original with this author. (Not even a start of a taste … Re-Thinking the Mediterranean; Environmental NGOs & Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation; etc …) In the face of Peak Oil, amid Global Warming, and the reality of ever heightened tensions, the ‘sustainability’ path might be core to finding a path toward sustainable peace in the region.
The TREC vision is a compelling one, with multiple reinforcing benefits and opportunities. For an exploration of these, see Energy COOL: A power renewable vision.