Shoshana Gabbay,
Ministry of the Environment

The following are some of the international cooperative activities made in the area of environmental crime prevention:

Combating Desertification

The Earth Summit called for an international convention on this topic. An intergovernmental preparatory committee, including an Israeli expert, was established. Israel has expressed its readiness to share its wide experience and has proposed that an international center for combating desertification be set up at Ben-Gurion University’s Desert Research Institute.

Ozone Protection

Israel has ratified the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the London Amendment in June, 1992.

Concern over the risks associated with emissions of methyl bromide, of which Israel is a major world supplier, has led Israel’s Minister of the Environment to appoint a task force to survey the substance’s use in Israel and worldwide and to 2025. Within the context of the Priority Actions Program (PAP), Israel continues to contribute its expertise and experience to concrete development projects (from integrated planning of coastal zones to environmental impact assessment). Israel also conducts monitoring and research under MAP’s assessment component, MEDPOL.

MAP has approved two significant projects which promise to be of special significance to Israel’s environmental protection efforts: a Coastal Areas Management Program (CAMP) for Israel and a sub-regional agreement between Egypt, Cyprus and Israel on preparedness and cooperation in response to medium and large-scale oil spills.

In October, 1991, in a landmark decision, Israel was unanimously elected, along with Egypt, Tunisia and Monaco, to serve on the MAP Bureau, the steering committee of the entire plan. In May, 1994 an expert meeting on the management of coastal regions, the marine environment and marine biological resources, was convened in Tunisia.

This was the first time that Israel was invited, in an official capacity, to participate in a MAP conference taking place in an Arab country which did not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Bilateral Cooperation

Recent bilateral agreements include:

In February 1991, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of the Environment and the U.S.A. Environmental Protection Agency. The memorandum establishes a framework for scientific and technical cooperation between the two organizations in the field of environmental protection, including exchanges of scientific and technical information, exchange visits of scientific personnel, joint scientific symposia and workshops, and cooperative research on problems of common interest. Several professional workshops have already been held in Israel and in the U.S.A. on subjects such as wastewater treatment, sludge treatment, and re-use of effluents in agriculture.

A cooperative agreement, similar in content to the Israel-US Memorandum outlined above, was signed between the Ministries of the Environment in Israel and Germany in March, 1993. One item in the agreement was the implementation of an Israeli-Egyptian-German trilateral project on the reduction of pesticides in agriculture. A seminar on air quality standards, with the participation of Israeli and German experts, was convened in Israel in March, 1994.

In April 1993, the Israel Ministry of the Environment and the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation signed an agreement on cooperation, information exchange and joint projects on reducing environmental damage by agriculture. The Israel Ministry of the Environment also signed with the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation on mutual environmental problems. The agreement envisions several joint workshops and seminars. A five-member expert team from Egypt has already visited Israel for a study tour on wastewater treatment in small communities.

A seminar on the treatment of hazardous materials, with the participation of Austrian and Israeli experts was held in Austria at the end of 1994.

A seminar on solid waste treatment has been held in Israel with the participation of Swedish experts.

An agreement on cooperation in the field of desertification was signed in November 1993.

An agreement on cooperation in environmental matters and nature conservation was signed in April 1994.

Israel-European Union:
The European Union is working to implement the environmental section of the agreement on cooperation.

Peace and the Environment

The expansion of the peace process is expected to bring about sweeping changes in the ability of Middle Eastern countries to address environmental issues. The Ministry of the Environment participates actively in the peace process in two modes multilateral and bilateral.

Multilateral Mode:
A significant breakthrough was made in 1993 when the parties to the peace process agreed to cooperate in combating marine pollution and oil spills in the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan, Israel and Egypt have consented, inter alia, to place pollution control equipment at each other’s disposal in the case of an oil spill.

Discussions and planning are proceeding on the following subjects:
* a regional project on desertification;
* the environmental future of the Mediterranean Sea region and the integrative management of the Eastern Mediterranean coast;
* environmental education.

In this spirit, Israel has welcomed the Japanese initiative for the preparation of a regional environmental code of conduct.

Bilateral Mode:
The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements between the Government of Israel and the Palestinians (signed in September, 1993) incorporates several environmental components. These include the establishment of an Environmental Authority by the elected Palestinian Interim Council, the creation of a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee on economic cooperation, and the drawing up of "an environmental protection plan providing for joint and/or coordinating measures in this sphere."

The Inter-ministerial Subcommittee on the Environment has already prepared a position paper on the required coordination between Palestinians and Israelis on pollution prevention and environmental promotion and has defined fields for future cooperation.

Representatives of the Ministry of the Environment serve on expert committees on environmental issues, established by Israel and Jordan. They take an active part in the Washington peace talks and have already worked with their Jordanian colleagues to finding solutions to the problem of the flies plaguing the Dead Sea region and to promote environmentally-sound tourism in this region.