Monday, November 10th
I would like to greet the organizers of this important conference –Friends of the Earth Middle East organization- Mr. Munqeth Mehyar, Mr. Nader Al Khatib and Mr. Gidon Bromberg, SIWI organization –Dr. Therese Sjomander Magnusson – and the Global Nature – Dr. Marin Hammeri.
I am delighted and proud to have been given the privilege of participating in the conference and I would like to thank you all for this opportunity.
I believe that this joint conference for the rehabilitation of the Southern Jordan River has far reaching importance on a number of levels, which go beyond merely the importance of this historical river. I would like to speak to you today about these additional aspects.
First and foremost, I see great importance in the immediate and efficient progress of the Jordan Rehabilitation Project. I’m sure that you, the participants of this conference, are fully aware of the dramatic benefits of the project, both on an ecological level and on a cultural and touristic level and certainly on an economic level.
The numerous research studies that have been conducted over the years, including towards this conference, indicate enormous economic benefits, savings of between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars per year, which will significantly improve the lives and welfare of all citizens in the area.
To the best of my understanding, the Southern Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is an outstanding example of the significant benefits that can result from the cooperation between neighboring countries with common interests.
Aside from the well-known economical and ecological benefits, joint efforts, combining forces over time and certainly shared successes, are an essential and critical part of the long lasting and stable relations, which build the foundation that enables the resolving of conflicts by consensual solutions.
The importance of these mechanisms, the importance of the trust and joint efforts is currently becoming clearer – during a period in which tensions are rising in Jerusalem, taking their toll and making the lives of citizens of all religions more difficult.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Netanyahu, has just recently declared Israel solid obligation to maintaining the status- quo in the Temple Mount and from this podium, I urge all sides for conciliation, restoration of peace and maintaining mutual respect between the religions, in order to promote the prosperity and growth of the city and for the sake of our future.
Especially in these trying times, I call upon us all to focus on our shared goals, which are truly important, and to find the right methods to resolve our difficulties and disagreements together.
This conference focuses on a clear common geographic interest shared by neighboring countries. However, this is certainly not the only one. The reality in the Middle East, and certainly the situation in recent months, has presented us with a number of joint interests, concerning a number of important issues related to the welfare and security of the residents of the entire Middle East and continued stability and strength of the countries in this region.
A striking example of such an interest is the disturbing increase in the power of radical terrorist organizations, witnessed in recent months, which constitutes a real threat to the stability of the region.
We have witnessed the alarming escalation of the Islamic State – ISIS- in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This radical cruel organization threatens to challenge the rule of the region’s countries, and constitutes a real threat to the lives and welfare of their citizens. Furthermore, we have witnessed the strengthening of other radical organizations that threaten the stability of the region, such as the radical Jabhat Al –Nusra in Syria and extreme Islamic organizations that are establishing themselves in the Gaza Strip.
Concurrently, Iran continues to support the radical organizations in the region, working against sovereign states and stepping up its efforts to develop nuclear arms, what will dramatically change the balance of power and the threats in the Middle East.
In the face of this disturbing and threatening picture and the strengthening of radical forces in the area, it appears that the shared vital interests of the group of leading countries in the Middle East are coming into focus – These are the countries that wish to protect the stability of the region and to protect the welfare and security of their citizens.
This realistic up-to-date view of the Middle East indicates the formation of two central groups – the Radical Islam axis versus the axis of Moderate Countries. These moderate countries, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates, the Palestinian Authority and Israel have a clear common interest in cooperation and joining forces to protect the safety of the entire Middle East.
Here too, as in the Southern Jordan River Project, the common interest, albeit a strong one, is just at the beginning of the road. If we can join forces, if we find the ways to work together to protect the safety of the region, we can also leverage these shared interests and work together to pave the way toward achieving historic agreements and to changing the reality of the entire region.
It is clear to us all, that the road to changing the face of the Middle East is filled with challenges and brave decisions. We must bring about the resolution of the long standing conflict between Israel and its neighbors, reach an historic agreement, and facilitate comprehensive regional cooperation in all areas of life.
The time has come to face the challenge, to make groundbreaking strides and to adopt the framework of the Arab League’s Initiative for reaching a comprehensive regional solution that will include an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The countries of the region must work toward establishing a comprehensive regional conference to discuss cooperation between Israel and its neighboring countries in a large number of fields and which will work toward ending the Israeli Palestinian Conflict, based on the framework of the initiative of the Arab League with a commitment to discuss its content in depth.
We must all work to arrange for such a conference in the imminent future, in a location agreed upon by all parties, and embark upon a long significant process of honest and real discourse on all issues.
I wholeheartedly believe that the combination of regional forces can help create better and more extensive solutions than those that can be reached only through a bilateral axis. With the full commitment of all the region’s countries, real intensive efforts of professional teams and senior statesmen from all countries, we can find the necessary solutions and reach a comprehensive settlement.
Just recently, we marked the 20th anniversary of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan, an agreement that made a tremendous contribution to the entire region which is expressed and will continue to be expressed in aspects of security, tourism, and economic benefit totaling millions of shekels for the economies of both countries.
At the signing of the Peace Treaty between Jordan and Israel, the late former Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin said, and I quote:
“Today we are embarking on a battle that has no dead and no wounded, no blood and no anguish. This is the only battle that is a pleasure to wage – the battle for peace. Tomorrow, on the way up to Jerusalem, thousands of flowers will cover the remains of those rusting armored vehicles, the ones that never made it to the city. Tomorrow, from those silent metal heaps, thousands of flowers will smile to us.”
All of us, Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis and residents of the entire Middle East must wage this war with united forces- the war for a better life for our children and grandchildren, the war for our future.
The time has come for us all to look at the Middle East with a joint desire for a safe life, stability and success. The time has come for the region’s moderate countries to join hands in order to face the challenges before us and to embark upon a brave path to find a solution to the existing crises, to settle the relations in our regions and to reach a historic change in our reality.
Here too, the positive implications will exceed any forecast and will have a dramatic impact on all areas of life – security, tourism, culture and of no less importance, – economic development, a significant decrease of the cost of the living and improving the quality of life in the countries of this region.
I sincerely hope that in the coming months, brave decisions will be made by all the countries of the region and that wonderful cooperation inherent in this important conference is just the beginning.
Thank you and I wish everyone a very successful conference.
This post is contributed by Samar M. Salma, EcoPeace Middle East Media Officer at the Amman Office.
Photography by Samar M. Salma