Image credit: Arava Power
The launch of a 5MW solar field in Israel would seem to be good news for advocates of green energy. But could solar power also provide a path forward for the peace process in this troubled region? Some activists are hoping so, looking to establish cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians on crucial renewable energy infrastructure. Palestinians and Israelis Work Together for Solar
Reporting on the launch of the Ketura Solar project, PRI's The World talked to both Israeli and Palestinian activists and solar advocates who hope that renewable energy may provide opportunities for cooperation. American-born Israeli activist Gershon Baskin, a senior advisor to a project called Palestine Power, argues that both sides would do well to embrace clean energy:
"For two peoples who are fighting over land that they claim that they love, they've done a tremendous job of polluting this place, of destroying the land, destroying the environment, destroying the water resources we have, polluting the air, you name it. This country is an environmental mess."
Cooperation Doesn't Come Easily
Like anything in the region though, cooperation isn't likely to be without hurdles. While Palestine Power is receiving assistance from the international parent company of Arava Power (the company behind Ketura Solar), its founder Hanna Siniora was unwilling to attend the opening of the Ketura plant as it fell on the same day as major protests to mark the 1967 war with Israel. And there is an ongoing cultural and economic boycott of Israeli institutions that will make direct cooperation hard for many Palestinians.
Similarly, as witnessed when Leonora interviewed Nasser Abufarha of Canaan Fair Trade (full disclosure: I work with Nasser and Canaan as a client of my day job), even using the term Palestine is considered by many Israelis and advocates for Israel to be a form of provocation. You only have to look at the comments of the PRI piece to see how quickly any discussion of cooperation descends into accusations of collaboration on one side, and false victimhood and corruption on the other.
Energy Security Breeds Political Security
Whether or not the intricacies of Palestinian/Israeli cooperation can be navigated by those promoting solar, it seems fair to say that more clean, renewable energy, increased energy and economic security, and a decrease in reliance on finite fossil fuels should be an important step toward eliminating sources of conflict across the Globe.
As Siniora told PRI, many Palestinians believe that solar power can be a key way to gain more self-determination for an eventual Palestinian state, as both Gaza and the West Bank are currently reliant on energy purchased from Israel for the majority of their power: "Even if it is more expensive," Siniora said. Israel "cannot prevent the rays of the sun." Meanwhile Israel struggles to keep up with demand for energy, with many Israelis concerned about government plans to make up for any deficit through using coal.
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