For over 20 years the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura has brought together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and international students to study cross border environmental cooperation together. There are now 1000 alumni who work throughout Palestine, Jordan, Israel and around the world. This includes 230 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel; 110 Jordanians; 269 Israeli Jews and other international alumni. Even during times of conflict, the Arava Institute has not wavered from its commitment to the viability of cross border environmental cooperation and peace.

In 2016, the Arava Institute initiated the Track II Forum, as part of a new 5-year strategic program. The aim of Track II is to advance environmental agreements between Jordan, Israel and Palestine to improve lives, protect the environment, and support sustainable resolution of conflict. The concept underlying the Track II Forum is a departure from traditional peace-building efforts in the region, which have aimed to establish overarching peace plans. The Forum fills an essential role in the current political situation, demonstrating that when initiatives are taken at the professional level, positive change can be catalyzed on the ground and in the political arena. This is also the surest way to compliment any future regional agreements as well as to monitor compliance on the ground.

Within the Track II Forum, professional working groups have been formed under the direction of leading Palestinian (West Bank and Gaza), Israeli and Jordanian experts. Together they work on specific cross border environmental issues and projects, agreement over which would benefit all sides and promote trust. Among others, these include waste water and reuse, renewable energy, and climate change.

In September, 2017 the Second Annual Cross-border Environmental Cooperation Conference convened Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian experts and policy makers at the Arava Institute. Eighty-five participants attended the conference, among them Israeli Knesset members, including MK Amir Peretz, MK Yael Cohen-Paran, MK Ksenia Svetlova, MK Yehiel “Hilik” Bar, and MK Issawi Frej, and four members of the the PLO Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society (We need to check whether they can be named or to leave it vague), along with several leading scientists from Gaza. Government ministerial representatives included the Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation, the Israeli State Comptroller’s office, and the Palestinian Ministry of Health (veterinarian).

Key note speaker Ambassador Dennis Ross shared his personal account of the reasons for the failure of the Oslo Accords and the difficult lessons that were learned. He commended Track II initiatives, and urged all participants to support engagement in the Track II process, stating “Track II can give Track I the credibility that for a long time, it has lacked’.

A panel of Israeli Knesset members, Palestinian officials and Dennis Ross advocated unanimously for the role of environmental agreements as the preparation for a two state solution. This was warmly welcomed by conference participants.

The Track II Forum welcomes cross border professionals with proposals for support for pragmatic projects that will impact and benefit all sides of the border. If there is interest, please contact the Institute at .