43 heads of state and government met on 13 July in Paris to launch the Union for the Mediterranean.

 Address by PM Ehud Olmert at the Mediterranean Union Summit

 

PM Ehud Olmert with French President Sarkozy and PA President Abbas at Paris Mediterranean Summit (Photo: GPO)

The Honorable President of France, Chairman of the Mediterranean Union Summit,
The Honorable President of Egypt, Co-Chairman of the Mediterranean Union Summit,
Leaders of the Mediterranean Countries,
Leaders of the European Countries,
Distinguished Guests,

Honorable Chairmen,

I came here today, to Paris – the capital of France, from Jerusalem – the capital of the State of Israel, in order to take part in the vision of courageous men.  On behalf of the people of Israel, I would like to express our tremendous appreciation for your hard work and your sincere efforts to realize the vision of regional cooperation – a vision of hope, a vision of peace and closeness among the peoples of the Mediterranean.

Members of the Summit,

According to Jewish tradition, and for many generations, we believe in a value called tikkun olam, or repairing the world.  This means that each and every one of us is responsible not only for ourselves, but also for repairing the world and solving its crises.

The global crises in the fields of energy, the climate and food threaten us all. However, in addition to these, the Middle East faces additional problems such as water scarcity and an expansion of its deserts. Israel, like its neighbors, which must deal with these challenges on a daily basis, encouraged the finest Israeli researchers to conduct intensive research & development in the field of water technology.

Thanks to this experience, Israel currently has unique experience in managing a limited water economy, reclamation of sewage for agricultural irrigation, desalinization, and in advanced agricultural irrigation technologies. The State of Israel is successful in reusing sewage at the highest rate in the world – 75%.

We pay special attention to desalination technologies, and by 2012, approximately two-thirds of the amount of water for domestic use (600 million cubic meters) will be derived from desalination.  In Israel, the largest, most advanced and cheapest reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world operates, and in one year an additional plant will be established – one even larger. The cost of desalination, which has become highly attractive at less than 70 cents per cubic meter of desalinated water, led to the solution of desalination becoming the most concrete and attainable solution.

Agricultural development in the Negev, the "Israeli desert", presented us with difficult challenges. Drip irrigation, a revolutionary Israeli invention which only grows more sophisticated over time, contributes to the maximal utilization of irrigation water – 70% to 80%, as opposed to 40% with regular irrigation – around the world.

I do not list these accomplishments in order to tell you of our successes.  These achievements and others can significantly reduce the water problem and the increased desertification of the Middle East, as well as in other areas in the world; improve agricultural production; and reduce poverty around the globe.

To this end, we must create partnerships and cooperate with our neighbors on matters of water technology; we must integrate Israeli inventions which are used in many countries around the world, including in the European Union – in the Middle Eastern countries as well.

Indeed, from the earliest times until today, the Middle East has been witness to tensions, conflicts and even wars waged over water distress. However, today we have the technological solutions to water shortages and desertification in our hands, and we must discover a way to cooperate and work together – governments, academia and businesspeople – so that we can take full advantage of the accumulated knowledge to improve the use of water for the benefit of our citizens, and primarily – in order to prevent unnecessary tensions.

Distinguished Leaders,

The foundation for good relations between peoples and the building of long-term interests is supported, in great part, by economic cooperation. I believed so when I signed agreements for industrial cooperation with my colleagues in Egypt and Jordan, and I still believe so today when I stand at the head of a country with an impressive scope of trade with other countries in the Mediterranean region.

I believe that we must expand the framework for this cooperation, not only with the countries with which Israel already conducts economic and commercial ties, but also with those with whom we do not have ties.

I take this opportunity to respond to statements made here during this important summit: the State of Israel is committed to continuing the process of political negotiations in order to bring about a stable, speedy and comprehensive solution to the historic conflict with the Palestinian people, represented here by their president, Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, and with the Arab countries who have yet to sign peace accords with us.

We are in the middle of negotiations. We will continue the negotiations – they are important, they are serious, and they are being conducted with caution and responsibility. I know that all those who are seated here around this table, and many who are not here – first and foremost, the United States of America, headed by President George Bush and led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – are working towards, wish for and strive for our success in reaching an agreement which will lead to greater stability, to an atmosphere of greater justice and calm, to a cessation of violence and to peace for us and the Palestinians founded on the vision of two states for two people: the State of Israel – the state of the Jewish people, and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

We are doing so; we will continue to do so with all Arab countries with which we have yet to sign peace accords.

Israel may be a young country – one which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary – but it has managed to develop many capabilities. Together with these capabilities, Israel also comes to the table with a large measure of good-will – the good-will to create partnerships with countries so that there will be economic prosperity and stability in the Middle East.

Any great accomplishment seems impossible until one individual stands up, determines a goal and makes it a reality.  This individual is each and every one of us, fellow heads of state – not tomorrow, not in the future, not when the processes have been completed, not when all the disagreements have been ended – but today!  Today we must act to create bridges between our nations; today we bear the responsibility for the welfare of our peoples; today we must work together for the Middle East and the entire Mediterranean region – for ourselves, for our children, for the coming generations.

Here, in Paris, today, I call, together with you, for the creation of a new economic horizon for the entire region, and I thank you, sir, President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, for your initiative, your leadership, your determination and your strength, together with your Co-Chair, my friend, Hosni Mubarak – to hold this Summit and reach this starting point which can lead to agreement, cooperation and peace for our peoples.

Thank you very much.