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Where do we start?

Many times when we meet with speakers or groups to discuss the Israel-Palestinian conflict they ask us where we would start if it was our job to solve the conflict (assuming you can solve it).  Usually it comes down to two options, if you can solve Jerusalem you can solve the conflict, or save Jerusalem for last since it is so contested.  The group that we met with this morning though I think had the best idea.  They were not concerned with who would get Jerusalem or what would would happen in Israel or the Palestinian territories during negotiations.  Their idea was to work together (Israelis and Palestinians) on a single project that benefits everyone.  The idea is to build a sewage treatment plant in al-Ubadia (the Kidron Valley).  This plant would treat the sewage that runs through the village to the Dead Sea providing clean water to the local villagers and anywhere else the water is diverted to.

The group we met with feels that if the two opposing sides can work together on this one project, trust and cooperation would be build that could be helpful later on.

While this idea seems like one that could work, but politics, as usual, get in the way.  Because the plant is in Area A (under complete control by the PA) the Palestinians want the plant to be theirs.  However, Israel is not particularly willing to give permission for the plant to be built and then operated out of their control.  The Israeli government also wants to use some of the water that would be treated at the plant in the nearby settlements.  This is clearly a problem for the Palestinians who do not support the settlements being build on the land gained after the 1967 war.  The Palestinians want the plant to be theirs exclusively so that if there ever is a two-state solution, the plant could be retained as part of the infrastructure of the new state.  In the end it seems from the people who spoke today, each group is coming to the table already focused on all the things they won’t do or won’t concede on.

In the end, this project may not come to fruition because of the politics that I just simplified.  However, what stuck with me from this presentation was the approach of taking a small project that is new and has not been apart of negotiations in the past and using it as a starting point.


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