1) Water, water everywhere

At the Times of Israel, editor David Horovitz writes about how Israel’s dealt with its water crisis.
(h/t Yaacov Lozowick)

“How did we beat the water shortage? Because we said we would. We decided we would,” says Kushnir, a big man with a warm smile and a robust Russian accent. “And once you’ve made that decision, you build the tools to reduce your dependence. We’re on the edge of the desert in an area where water has always been short. The quantity of natural water per capita in Israel is the lowest for the whole region. But we decided early on that we were developing a modern state. So we were required to supply water for agriculture, and water for industry, and then water for hi-tech, and water to sustain an appropriate quality of life.”

The National Water Carrier — which takes water from the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) south through the whole country to Beersheba and beyond — exemplified Israel’s ambition. Contemplated even before the modern state was founded, its planning and initial construction were “a dominant feature of the first Ben-Gurion government — an unprecedented investment,” Kushnir notes. “It stressed our desire to achieve a different reality.”

Carrying almost 2 million cubic meters a day nationwide, that supply line, together with water from underground aquifers, kept Israel watered through the 70s. By the 1980s, though “we had a bigger population, bigger needs and the natural resources were overstretched. So we experimented with a small desalination plant in Eilat. And we began recycling purified sewage, and bringing industry into purifying water.”

The details are fascinating and well worth a read.

Since part of Israel’s water program involve re-use, a joint team of Israeli and Palestinian scientists is looking for possible dangers:

While people – and even their farm animals – continue to consume more and more medicines and chemicals, the effect of these substances once they have passed through the body and into the country’s water system are unknown, Tal explained. No one in Israel, or the Palestinian Authority, is currently looking for the presence of these chemicals or their effects “in a systematic way,” he added.

Tal has received a three-year, $560,000- grant from the USAID’s Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program to conduct the project. Many of his own students from Sde Boker will conduct the lion’s share of the laboratory testing in Health Ministry labs.

In the Palestinian contingent is water engineer Nader al-Khateeb, who also serves as Palestinian director of Friends of the Earth Middle East; Dr. Alfred Abed Rabbo, an assistant professor at Bethlehem University’s Water and Soil Research Unit; Dr. Shai Armon; and a group of Palestinian students, Tal explained.

One point that these two articles underscore is that if the Arab world would put aside its boycott of Israel on account of the Palestinians, it probably could benefit its own citizens by using Israeli technologies.

2) Is AIPAC obsolete?

In Tablet Lee Smith explains How AIPAC is losing, as evidenced by its non-response to the Hagel nomination:

Yet AIPAC has remained totally mum. The group says it focuses its energies on matters of policy rather than personnel. If it campaigned against Hagel, where would it stop? The organization would potentially have to take a position on every Cabinet nominee. Meantime, in the absence of AIPAC, other pro-Israel organizations have come out publicly against Hagel, like the Emergency Committee for Israel. For taking the lead on this issue, they have been labeled partisans, while AIPAC has preserved its bipartisan status.

But it’s not clear how much that label matters when a very influential segment of the Democratic party has made it plain that supporting Israel isn’t a top priority. I’m not just referring to the delegates who booed pro-Israel changes to the party platform on the floor of the convention in Charlotte last summer. I’m talking about the White House.

Pro-Israel Obama supporters on the Hill and in the press keep trying to make the case that in spite of how it might look on the surface, the administration cares deeply about the U.S.-Israel relationship. They point to the success of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries as evidence that the security and military cooperation between the United States and Israel has reached unprecedented highs under Obama’s stewardship. But politics is mostly about how things look. And if the administration really cared that much about Israel, it wouldn’t nominate a secretary of defense who referred to defenders of the U.S.-Israel relationship as “the Jewish lobby.”

AIPAC is a lobby built to cultivate a pro-Israel bi-partisan consensus. AIPAC probably figured that Senators like Schumer and Cardin will be around after Obama’s second term ends and the bitterness of a contested nomination wasn’t worth alienating them. Still Smith persists:

The Iranian negotiating team meeting with its Western counterparts in Kazakhstan this week has earned the right to its smugness. The Iranians are installing equipment that will allow it to accelerate the production of nuclear fuel. And then there was North Korea’s nuclear test two weeks ago. At the very least, it signaled to the Iranians that in the end, despite all of the tough talk coming from the White House, the Americans are not going to stop the Iranians from acquiring the bomb.

Tehran has the upper hand in negotiations because it recognizes that all the White House wants is some sort of deal it can sell as a victory. And the all-powerful pro-Israel lobby has no choice but to swallow it and smile.

In other words, generally, it’s worth it for AIPAC to preserve its bipartisan appeal, but this issue was important enough to take sides on.

The New York Sun has a related editorial criticizing numerous Jewish and pro-Israel organizations for staying silent.

That was the Zionist Organization of America, which is the oldest pro-Israel organization in America, having been founded in 1897, the same year in which Theodor Herzl convened at Basel, Switzerland, the First Zionist Congress. It opposed the Hagel nomination early, forthrightly, and unapologetically. The result, according to the ZOA’s president, Morton Klein, is that it received objections from several leaders worried about the consequences for the Jewish community of such a public position.

Mr. Klein believes the Hagel nomination would not have been confirmed had the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee taken a formal public position against Mr. Hagel. All three agencies have had many heroic moments. But they stood down on Mr. Hagel. Said Mr. Klein: “Several senators — and important ones — said to me: ‘If Aipac, ADL and AJCommittee — especially Aipac — had come out and lobbied against Hagel, he would have been stopped.”

What such public opposition would have done, Mr. Klein argues, is that it “would have given a number of Democrats, who thought Hagel was awful, cover to vote against him.” Instead, the response leaders of the Jewish community received was, “If he’s so awful how come we’re not hearing anything against him from other Jewish groups.” Mr. Klein says he heard such a message from both sides of the aisle in the Senate.

Would it have made a difference? Morton Klein (and apparently the New York Sun) believe it would have. I am less certain.

 
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