The dinner celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Middle East Desalination Research Center.
Remarks by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign AffairsTzipi Livni at the Interfaith Dinner in Celebration of Regional Cooperation
The Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC)
A Joint Arab-Israeli Project to Solve Regional Water Problems
New York, 24 September 2007
It is a pleasure and an honor to be with you today. I would like to thank the American Jewish Committee for organizing this important event.
The Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) is more than a critical project for the Middle East environment. It is not just a place that helps to solve our region’s water problems. It is also a symbol.
I often speak of how Israel and its neighbors share an alliance of interests. I truly believe that Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors should not be governed by zero-sum logic. The MEDRC project is proof of this.
Scientists and researchers from Israel, Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have been involved together in finding solutions to common challenges. They are addressing critical issues that both the region and the world face as a result of global warming and desertification. And they are also building bridges between societies and cultures that have been divided for too long. Through their success they have shown that regional cooperation for the benefit of all the people in the region can be a reality – not just a slogan.
The fact that MEDRC has survived the political ups and downs of the last years is evidence that what unites us can be stronger than what divides us.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Omani Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Bader bin Hamad AlbuSaid who, under the wise guidance of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, has made MEDRC a success story. This could not have been achieved, of course, without the assistance of the member States, led by the United States.
I am sure you will agree with me when I say that it is high time for MEDRC to be upgraded by having many more countries, in the region and outside it, join and contribute.
The MEDRC project is a symbol, but it is not enough. For me, it is unfortunate that MEDRC is one of the few concrete projects to have survived the multilateral track initiated in the 1990’s.
But we are now at a time of new opportunity. As we work with the new Palestinian Government to make concrete progress on the bilateral track, I believe we also have a chance to make new progress on the regional track. There is no substitute for the bilateral process between Israel and the Palestinians. But I strongly believe that regional support for the bilateral process is critical for us to succeed.
This support comes in many forms. It comes through clear Arab and Muslim support for the new Palestinian government that is committed to the two State solution, while rejecting the extremism that threatens the region as a whole. It comes through regional endorsement of any political agreements reached between the parties. And it comes through enhancing and deepening regional ties between Israel and the Arab world, while in parallel we advance towards Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.
All these measures together will help bring peace to our region, and help our people enjoy its fruits.
We are meeting today at a time of religious significance for both Muslims and Jews. For Muslims, it is the Holy Month of Ramadan. For Jews, it is the high holidays. For both our great religions, this is a time of soul-searching and reflection. And while it is always appropriate to examine our past conduct, this is also a good time to reflect on our future conduct.
I believe there are many areas for regional cooperation, and many ways for Israelis and Arabs, Jews and Muslims to work together. Cooperation in fields such as environment, education, trade, tourism, economy and culture is not just possible, I believe it is necessary, and I hope it is inevitable. Together, we can imagine a better, more peaceful and more prosperous future for the peoples of the Middle East.
And together, with projects like MEDRC, we can make that future happen.
Ramadan Mubarak. Shana Tova.