editors note: a detailed study published in July 2023. Despite the current conflict, climate change and environmental stress continue to transform the Eastern Mediterranean. The report continues to be relevant.

full report available to download: https://www.mei.edu/publications/regional-environmental-cooperation-between-israel-and-its-neighbors


Executive Summary

Environmental challenges are becoming a priority for countries in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and are increasing cross-border cooperation — including between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors. Such cooperation assists in tackling climate change through a regional and global lens, and also fosters regional stability, maintains and expands circles of peace and normalization, and increases prosperity and economic development.

This trend, together with progress in Israel-Arab relations following the Abraham Accords, creates new opportunities
for regional environmental cooperation between Israel and its neighbors. These opportunities’ full potential cannot be realized before there is a breakthrough toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. Moreover, the composition and policies of Israel’s current government pose additional challenges to Israel-Arab relations, and led existing cooperation to slow down. Nevertheless, and despite being limited in scope, regional cooperative endeavors are taking place and efforts to sustain and expand them are underway.

The convening of the COP27 and COP28 summits in the Middle East, in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates respectfully, helps such cooperation evolve. In addition, Israel and some Arab states (such as Morocco and the UAE) have signed bilateral agreements for cooperation on environmental-related issues; minilateral endeavors, like the Israel-Jordan-UAE water- electricity swap deal and the Israel-Morocco-EU water dialogue, have been launched; and, multilateral mechanisms and initiatives — including the Union for the Mediterranean, the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, and the East Mediterranean & Middle East Climate Change Initiative — enable Israel and its neighbors to jointly engage in tackling climate change.

Various Israeli ministries and government bodies have been involved in these efforts over the last few years, some of which have relevant experience and knowledge, while others are new to the field. They identify a range of opportunities for enhanced regional cooperation, as well as a broad set of challenges that need to be overcome. These are being explored and tackled by the Israeli Climate Forum, established in 2021 by President Isaac Herzog, as part of his vision of a “Renewable Middle East.”

The international community also has an interest in fostering regional environmental cooperation between Israel and its neighbors, with a diplomatic outlook to advancing Israel-Arab normalization and Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The U.S. and Europe are best positioned to advance this, and can do so by providing third-party support to countries seeking to cooperate, focusing on the tangible benefits of environmental cooperation, including the Palestinians in relevant regionalendeavors, encouraging multilateralism and inclusivity, and investing in civil society.

full report available to download: https://www.mei.edu/publications/regional-environmental-cooperation-between-israel-and-its-neighbors