At a climate conference in Jerusalem, PLO minister and Israel’s climate-change envoy say that the entire region must work together to avert disaster brought on by climate change

Sam Sokol Feb. 23, 2022

PLO Negotiation Minister Dr. Shaddad Attili speaking at Haaretz's climate conference on Wednesday.
PLO Negotiation Minister Dr. Shaddad Attili speaking at Haaretz’s climate conference on Wednesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

A senior Palestinian negotiator called for increased regional cooperation on climate change, including with Israel, at Wednesday’s climate conference in Jerusalem.

“Our region has to go green because we … are already suffering from conflict; we are suffering from a shortage of resources,” said Dr. Shaddad Attili, Palestinian Liberation Organization Minister in the Negotiation Department, at the Israel Climate Change Conference.

Gideon Behar, Israeli Foreign Minister Special Envoy for Climate Change and Sustainability, expressed willingness for cooperation. “I think that there is no other choice but to cooperate on all of these issues, including water,” he said.

Attili said that Palestinians on social media had pushed back on Ramallah’s appointment of a special climate-affairs advisor to Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, given the current economic crisis, but that “we all … have to be part of this collective initiative.” 

“Last summer was the hottest in the region. … It didn’t differentiate between two people … living on the two sides of the wall,” he said.

Attili also declared he would welcome a “Green Blue Deal for the Middle East” as envisioned by the regional EcoPeace group, as it shows that “an Israeli is saying, … ‘Let’s give the Palestinians back their water,’” Attili said.

EcoPeace’s “Green Blue” manifesto proposes “harnessing the sun and the sea to create region wide desalinated water and energy security for all” as well as to achieve water equity between Israelis and Palestinians through the allocation of natural water.

Attili cited the poor state of Gaza’s lone sewage treatment plant as an example of how regional conflicts have disrupted environmental efforts, harming everybody in the process.

“The sewage doesn’t remain in Gaza,” he said. The two sides must work together “whether we like or don’t like each other.”

The various international climate accords to which both Israel and the Palestinians are signatories, he continued, can serve as an agreed basis for further cooperation sans negotiations. As they have already committed to those accords, “Let’s work together toward meeting our obligations.”

“The situation is really deteriorating, and very fast – faster than we realize,” he said, adding that an alternative vision must be developed based on “regional resilience to climate change” and focused on water, agriculture, food security and nature conservation.

“If we do not reach this resilience, we will all be affected in a very dramatic way that we even cannot understand [or] foresee now.”

The Israel Climate Change Conference, organized by Haaretz and Hebrew University, was held just three months after the International Climate Conference in Glasgow and amidst a growing public debate on the climate crisis in Israel.