Israel’s international environmental activities are carried out within the framework of various international organizations, foremost among which is the United Nations Environment Programme. The Ministry of the Environment, as the focal point of UNEP activities in Israel, is an active participant in UNEP-sponsored conferences and workshops. The ministry also serves as the focal point for INFOTERRA, UNEP’s environmental information and referral network.
In recent years, Israel has taken part in many UNEP-sponsored activities in such areas as combating desertification, ozone protection, transport of hazardous wastes, climate change and endangered species.
Israel’s contribution to the protection of the Mediterranean Sea environment has been carried out within the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP). Israel has been an active participant of all four components of the program-legal, socioeconomic and scientific. MAP constitutes a forum which has enabled direct contact and professional cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors for nearly two decades.
Israel’s involvement in environmental protection has led to several bilateral agreements for environmental cooperation including agreements between Israel and the U.S.A. Germany, Egypt, Austria, Sweden, Spain, Turkey and the European Union.
The Ministry of the Environment also participates in the peace process through two tracks: multilateral and bilateral. Within the framework of the multilateral peace talks for regional cooperation in the Middle East, the Working Group on the Environment, headed by the director general of the Ministry of the Environment, has played a key role in setting forth proposals for environmental cooperation.
In 1993, the parties agreed to cooperate in combating marine pollution and oil spills in the Gulf of Aqaba. Under the agreement, Jordan, Israel and Egypt have agreed to place pollution control equipment at each other’s disposal in case of an oil spill. In another realm the Israeli proposal for regional cooperation on desertification has been advanced in 1994. A multi-million dollar project, spearheaded by the World Bank, will see the establishment of regional centers on the study and prevention of desertification, with the participation of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and the Palestinians. Still another initiative, by the European Union, relates to the integrative management of the eastern Mediterranean coast. Other proposals relate to the declaration of a Year of the Environment in the Middle East, preparation of a regional environmental code of conduct
(initiated by the Japanese), sewage and solid waste treatment, coastal planning, monitoring and environmental impact assessment.
Alongside its participation in the multilateral peace talks, the Ministry of the Environment is a partner in the government effort to develop peaceful relations with individual neighboring Arab states. Environmental components were incorporated within the framework of agreements with the Palestinians and Jordan. Israeli experts are already working along with their Jordanian colleagues on finding common solutions to the fly problem plaguing the Dead Sea region and in promoting environmentally- sound development in the region. New areas of cooperation are now on the agenda.