ADDRESS BY MR. ARIEL SHARON, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL
THE EUROPEAN-MED STUTTGART CONFERENCE

15 April 1999

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ministers and Dear Guests,

I would like to thank the governing body for the exemplary organization of this third European-Mediterranean conference of Foreign Ministers taking place in the beautiful city of Stuttgart, which is also one of Germany’s industrial flagships.

I bring you today special greetings from another city which is the flagship of peace – Jerusalem – the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3000 years and the capital of the State of Israel for the past 51 years, and for all times.

I have not come here to argue, debate or prove to you Israel’s desire for peace: Israel has demonstrated time and again its willingness to make painful compromises on behalf of peace, and move the peace process forward. It is the only known country that has voluntarily given up territory which is part of its historical homeland – the cradle of the Jewish people – in order to achieve peace with its Arab and Palestinian neighbors. But one thing we will not do: we will not initiate action that will compromise in any way the security and survival of Jews in their homeland or elsewhere around the world. Security for our people is our prime responsibility. Without it, true peace will never materialize.

The Government of Israel remains committed to the Oslo agreement and the full implementation of the Wye memorandum, based on the principle of reciprocity. Israel’s goal remains to achieve peace agreements with the Palestinians as well as with our other Arab neighbors. Any delay in the negotiating process is a waste of precious time. I wish to use this opportunity and call from this podium to all those who have not yet joined the peace process and signed peace agreements with Israel – to do so without delay.

Mr. Chairman, and Distinguished Ministers,

My purpose in this conference is not to argue about peace, but to try and make peace work. I want to present to you a blueprint for the joint development of Regional Seawater Desalination Projects.

I want to make it clear that this is not the much talked about "Mediterranean Dead Sea Canal project", but rather a workable proposition for a most critical project for our region that can be implemented in phases, at an affordable cost. This would turn peace in our region from a utopian vision into a working proposition that would ensure that we can all survive and develop in our arid region.

Our common challenge today is a regional water crisis. Water shortage and the threat of desertification are the major regional challenges facing the countries of the Middle East in the foreseeable future. Israel is a small arid country with the desert occupying more than 50% of its land area. Similar conditions exist in other countries in the region.

Israel’s water policy takes into consideration the need to share our limited existing water resources with our neighbors. Currently, we are supplying water to the Jordanians and the Palestinians as well. Unfortunately, since the 1960’s the current potential of fresh water is being exploited to its utmost.

The region’s water supply depends on fluctuations in rainfall, which is in short supply. The countries in the region also suffer from lack of storage capacity, to regulate the water supply and to bridge over drought and dry cycles.

A crisis of water scarcity will occur when the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean reaches 10 million, (presently 8 million), the per-capita consumption of the Palestinians equals the rate prevailing in Israel, and another dry cycle occurs. The predicted time of this crisis is 2010.

The Project Outline

The time needed for planning and construction of a desalination project is not less than 5 years.

The calculated investment required for the desalination of 1 cubic/meter of water is 4-5 dollars.

The cost of desalination of 1 cubic/meter, including investment recovery, is currently 0.70-1.00 dollar.

The cost at this stage is beyond the purchase capability of the potential parties to the project, who all suffer from severe water scarcity.

The solution, beside the general economic development of Israel’s neighbors, is to assist the neighbors of Israel to meet the cost of sea water desalination for a period of a few years.

The Options:

In the initial phase of the project:

1. Construction of a 50 million/cubic meter (cm) (a year) desalination plant in Gaza for drinking water and domestic consumption.

2. Desalination of 50 million/cm (a year) of brackish water for supply to Jordan in the Jordan Rift Valley (JRV).

3. Desalination of 50-100 million/cm (a year) in a plant on the coast of the Mediterranean.

In the main phase of the project:

Construction of a large-scale desalination plant of 800 million/cm of water. All together the completed project will provide 1 billion/cm (a year) of desalinated water.

The proposed Regional Seawater Desalination Project will be able, over a period of 10-15 years, to provide 1 billion cubic meters a year of desalinated seawater, and provide a solution to the current water crises as well as meet the future needs of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, and also benefit Syria.

Implementing this project will require a cooperative effort and direct investment of the leading industrialized countries, private enterprise, and the international community at large, with active participation of Israel and its Arab neighbors.

This long-term venture can become the "flagship project" of the international and Euro-Med community in achieving regional cooperation and large-scale joint ventures, which will advance the Middle East peace process.

I believe that such a project serves the universal needs of all people in the region. As such, it is one that is purely humanitarian and can receive broad regional and international support.

Creating the mutual investment and interdependence of all parties toward the success of such a project would provide a model for joint cooperation and long-term commitment without being dependent on changing political considerations. These large scale projects will employ thousands of workers and engineers from the Mediterranean the Middle East and other countries from around the world. Naturally, as it develops, it will create a vested interest for its success among all parties involved. When everyone involved has the same to lose or gain from a joint venture, like the desalination projects I propose, we will have paved the way to make peace work for all of us, and for our future generations as well.