Climate protection as a driving force for peace in the Middle East

As part of the activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, a Humboldt Workshop in Berlin addressed issues pertaining to sustainability and peace-building.

To mark this German-Israeli anniversary, an interdisciplinary workshop on the subject of Sustainability and Peace-Building was held at the Freie Universität Berlin from 13 to 15 July. Scientists from Germany, Israel, Canada and the Palestinian territories discussed the question of how the use and management of natural resources fosters the peace process in the Middle East and what obstructs it. The workshop participants were convinced that joint climate protection projects and equitable resource-sharing have the potential to advance the peace process.

Teilnehmer des deutsch-israelischen Workshops
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/Svea Pietschmann

As the Director of the Environmental Policy Research Centre at the Freie Universität Berlin, Miranda Schreurs, underscored, scientific exchanges on environmental issues already contributed to the dialogue between the East and West during the Cold War. She is also the host of the workshop organiser, Avraham Gottlieb, Humboldtian and professor of Sociology at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Go Woon Son from Hankuk University in Seoul, South Korea, reported on the Eco-Peace Park that is being created in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea with the intention of contributing to peace between these two adversarial states which share a common border.

Science can prepare the ground

In addition to experts on environmental policy, the workshop was also attended by Israel’s Ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman and the Chairman of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag, Volker Beck. At the formal reception held on 14 July, Hadas-Handelsman underscored the trailblazing role that science has played in the rapprochement between Israel and Germany following the Holocaust: initial contacts had been established between German and Israeli scientists even before the signing of the 1952 Reparations Agreement. And the Humboldt Foundation’s first fellow from Israel, researcher Chava Schachor-Landau from Jerusalem, came to Germany in 1958, seven years before diplomatic relations were officially established between the two countries. Her fellowship took her to Frankfurt am Main where she studied International Law.

Volker Beck called the 50th anniversary of German-Israeli relations a “miracle”. Many highly dedicated people on both sides helped advance rapprochement between the two nations, he noted. “Scientific collaboration is one way to create a more hopeful future for Germany and Israel and its neighbouring states,” Beck stated at the closing public discussion session.

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