Dead Sea, Jordan
I will summarize what happened yesterday from different speakers either organizers or our partners from Palestine and Israel.
If you allow me, I will switch to Arabic just to express the words that we understood yesterday.
I will summarize what was said yesterday as a Jordanian side and organizers of the conference whether EcoPeace Middle East or our partners in Jordan River Rehabilitation, the Israeli side and our Palestinian brothers whether in EcoPeace/Palestine or our brother Yousef Awayes and what he said yesterday representing the Palestinian Water Authority. We have seen a study, a lot of appreciated effort put into the master plan that was adapted by private organizations “EcoPeace”. The consultant company presented something that we cannot deny has a lot of effort to it but some information, and this conference is for studying, everyone can hand in a presentation or a study, but this study should be debatable, and take into consideration remarks by concerned parties, i.e., those knowledgeable about the rehabilitation of the river such as the Jordanian side, Palestine and Israel. For this we say some information need correction.
We must sit with SIWI; the Swedish organization to agree on some numbers so that the outcomes mirror the reality. We could have possibly given wrong data, it’s possible that one of the experts in a consultancy sat with us and we gave information that has a certain degree of incorrectness but everything can be corrected. Also our meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli side.
Therefore, to reach for correct outcomes for this conference, we demand following a correct methodology. We anticipate having correct outcomes so that any decision made will be based on correct data to implement the projects that we aspire to. You all have been working for years to rehabilitate the river, more than ten years. We as governmental bodies also support any parties inclination whether EcoPeace, SIWI, NGO, GNF, to present any study for the rivers rehabilitation through reports produced by experts or studies. Without a master plan for the Jordan River, we cannot come up with projects with value and effect to rehabilitate the river.
Our problem with the river is that it is shared. We cannot only speak to the Jordanians, but we have to speak to the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. A trilateral river, that’s why we have to talk to three parties and it’s not an easy process. I don’t blame any side but it requires great effort and attention from governmental bodies concerned with the Jordan River. This concerning the regional master plan presented to us and these are my remarks in this regard.
We also heard the Israeli perspective yesterday through the presentation given by professor Avital and we heard the Palestinian perspective. I want to talk about the presentation by the Israeli side yesterday. The Prof gave and presented information that is good. The information was presented to us in last month’s conference in Nir David in the Israeli side, the conference lasted for two days and it was also about Jordan River rehabilitation.
An elite group of people like you, with a clear background about this river and the means to rehabilitate similar rivers, but my comments in this respect are, if we continue to deliver undocumented information, information with no decision from decision makers, we will not move forward. Therefore, it would have been better if we as governmental bodies concerned and since there is an obligation by the peace treaty to rehabilitate the river and maintain its waters. This demand is in the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1994. But to continue in presenting and saying that this is a non-governmental non approved plan, it doesn’t work, sorry. These words, sentences, discussions and suggestions will not work. If we want to speak as a governmental body, we have to say that my inclination as a governmental body in accordance with the agreements and protocols and delegations done with the official bodies riparian to the river, that this is my plan as an Israeli side, and this is my plan as a Jordanian side and this is my plan as a Palestinian side. But to come to a conference and say that this is the plan … dreams, suggestions but I did not take decisions in its regard, I didn’t speak to decision makers, a minister, or prime ministry! Tell when are we going to sit, produce ideas that are not implementable and where decision makers have no say in them. We are just wasting time for nothing.
That’s why from this podium I ask the Israeli side to be clear about the plan as we agreed with the Israeli Drainage Authority in charge of managing the Lower Jordan River. We are supposed to have a clear plan that we can present to private organizations so that they can to help us. But if we say that I am presenting a plan, a draft and maybe it’s not implementable and requires high decisions and approvals from decision makers. Therefore, it is necessary that we agree as governmental bodies or officials. We need to agree on a plan that fits the needs of the three governmental bodies riparian to the river and to be in actuality an implementable plan, concerned with the Jordan River rehabilitation otherwise the 40 million cubic meters “in the near future” nobody knows, maybe in 10 years or 20 years and it may not work.
We have to produce scientific outcomes, now we have specialized consultants with great experience in the rehabilitation of rivers, maybe not in Jordan but in other countries. Therefore, we have to make use of these experiences and give them correct information and our plan for them to be able to build a comprehensive plan implementable, whereby the inhabitants in both banks of the river can feel the change. But as a regional party concerned. You all saw Israel, you all saw the northern part of Israel, its developed, it doesn’t need development, they have money they have capabilities that’s why if you see the western side of the river Gisher area, you see something bizarre; our side is orphaned, poor with nothing in it.
Fences for security purposes, we still can’t go as Jordanians to see the Bakoura which is the most beautiful geographical location in the Jordan valley. Those who want to see it, you have our brothers in EcoPeace, we can arrange a visit to see the Bakoura on the Jordanian side, one of the most beautiful areas. The eastern side is better than the western side because it has things that are not available in the western side like Rotenberg’s power plant for generating electricity, destroyed in 1964 is still there. The generators and cables are still destroyed but can be turned into a museum, but it needs money to work with it to become an attraction for people whether from the western or eastern side of the river.
Going back to the topic of the Palestinian side
I said in more than one occasion in Palestine or Israel or Jordan I said in public and in front of decision makers and in front of private bodies that there isn’t a Palestinian side to talk to for the rehabilitation of the remaining part of the Jordan River.
We are talking about the border, or the official border between us and Israel. We are talking about 22 km longitude only, but what about the 50 km to reach the Dead Sea where we are now. Those have no other side to talk to. When we talk to the Israelis, I want to be frank, I spoke with the Israel’s and still speak with them through the peace agreement and Joint Water Committee, we tell them that we want an official body to talk to, I stand on the eastern bank of the river and I want someone on the western side of the river to talk to. To tell them that you are dumping sewage water on us, or saline water, you are destroying the river; there is no other party to talk to. When we talk to the Israelis, they tell us that these are borders between us and Palestine, and when we talk to Palestinians they tell us, where are we to talk to, we can’t even see the river, to give you an example.
This is what is happening now, as long as these issues remain stalemated like this, there will not be a real rehabilitation of the river. To produce something logical, practical for the citizens, the governments of the three countries to feel change that we really have done something for the future generation, we have to set the three parties, and in the name of Jordan government and Water and Irrigation Ministry, I am ready to invite the three parties to join in the Dead Sea, in Amman, wherever you want, to come to you in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Ramallah, I don’t mind wherever we meet, but we have to meet. Because if we do not meet and put the dots on the letters, produce a logical plan for the three countries, we will remain with no progress and we will not have any outcomes and nothing will change regarding the river.
I can do 22 cables but the waters I cleaned at the upper side will pour down in the Dead Sea. This path of 50 km is exposed to everything; therefore, there must be an official body to talk to instead of each part blaming the other. Saying for example, this sewage is from Ramallah, or Jericho or Nablus or Jenin. Who can I talk to? If these 50 km are not clean just like I cleaned the upper or lower part as we call it, the water I cleaned in the upper river will meet with the water below and get polluted down below so we didn’t do anything. That’s why to be reasonable in our work, serious, and produce correct outcomes serving the three parties, we have to invite the three parties and put a comprehensive plan that tackles the entire river from the north of the Yarmuk River, by the tunnel to the Mouth of the Jordan River by the Dead Sea that is in front of us. Also to start to invite, after we sit together and agree on a business plan or roadmap, to invite the NGOs concerned, private organizations, like EcoPeace and SIWI who worked and paid money. To sit with them and tell them this is our plan we as trilateral bodies agreed to rehabilitate the river but it requires money.
Then we work to bring funders just like the Israeli side thankfully did in the conference conducted last month in Beit Shean, they brought funders from all over the world and they knew that they are not illegible for any grants as an Israeli government.
We are illegible as a poor country and they knew that the invitation to this conference and inviting funders is to support Jordan which we thank them for doing and there was approval by some funders and I received many letters of interest whether from private or governmental representatives or funders who showed interest and I have the letters, we can show them to our brothers in the trilateral meeting that we hope to conduct.
This is what I wanted to clarify, I reiterate we will meet and produce prose and poetry but there will not be deeds or anything tangible on the ground.
This post is transcribed and translated from Arabic by Samar M. Salma, EcoPeace Media Officer at the Amman Office.
The text was transcribed and translated to the best of my understanding.