The desalination revolution
How Israel beat the drought
This country was on the brink of water catastrophe, reduced to running relentless ad campaigns urging Israelis to conserve water even as it raised prices and cut supplies to agriculture. Now, remarkably, the crisis is over.
By David Horovitz February 26, 2013,
Until a couple of years ago, Israeli radio and TV regularly featured commercials warning that the country was “drying out.”
In one of the most powerful TV ad campaigns, celebrities including singer Ninet Tayeb, model Bar Refaeli and actor Moshe Ivgy highlighted the “years of drought” and the “falling level of the Kinneret.”
As they spoke plaintively to camera, their features started to crack and peel — like the country — for lack of moisture.
So compelling was this ad, so resonant its impact, I hadn’t actually realized it was no longer on the air. Alexander Kushnir put me straight. “We decided it simply wasn’t justified to alarm Israelis in this way any longer,” said Kushnir, who heads Israel’s Water Authority.
How so? Israelis don’t need to watch their water use any more? Isn’t this region one of the world’s most parched? Haven’t we been warned for years that the next Middle East war will be fought over water?
Kushnir’s answers: Yes, Israelis must still be wise with their water use. Yes, emphatically, this is a desert region, desperately short of natural water. And yes, we have indeed been worried for years about the possibility of water shortages provoking conflict.
But for Israel, for the foreseeable future, Kushnir says, the water crisis is over. And not because this happens to have been one of the wettest winters in years. Rather, he says, an insistent refusal to let the country be constrained by insufficient natural water sources — a refusal that dates back to David Ben-Gurion’s decision to build the National Water Carrier in the 1950s, the most significant infrastructure investment of Israel’s early years — led Israel first into large-scale water recycling, and over the past decade into major desalination projects. The result, as of early 2013, is that the Water Authority feels it can say with confidence that Israel has beaten the drought.
Alexander Kushnir, head of the Water Authority (photo credit: Courtesy)
Speaking to The Times of Israel from the authority’s offices in Tel Aviv, Kushnir identifies that refusal to “rely on fate” as the key to a genuine strategic achievement — a rare, highly positive change in an age and a region where most of Israel’s challenges appear to be worsening, not receding, much less disappearing.
“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.”
“Use any superlatives you like,” urges Kushnir, to describe the fact that, today, “over 80% of our purified sewage goes back into agricultural use. The next best in the OECD is Spain with 17-18%. It’s so justified energy-wise, and environmentally as well.”
But even these innovations weren’t enough to meet the needs of an ever-growing population through the 1990s and into the 2000s, the more so when the rains failed. Average rainfall in Israel is about 1.2 billion cubic meters. But in relatively dry years, it can sink to 900 million.
As the gulf between available water resources and needs widened, Israeli agriculture moved away from water-intensive crops and pioneered enormously improved efficiency, with trailblazing drip irrigation techniques. Israel also increased the use of brackish water in agriculture. And all that still wasn’t good enough. “We knew we had to be careful not to hurt our natural resources,” says Kushnir. “Ultimately, we had no choice but to reduce the supply of natural water to agriculture, and to increase prices, which hurt our agricultural sector.”
Plainly, this was no long-term solution. Elsewhere in the region, poorly managed countries were over-drilling, over-using, and risking major damage to natural sources. “In Syria, for instance, they drilled wells everywhere and destroyed aquifers,” he says. “They had irrational, erratic water management and a lack of government policy.” Even before two years of civil war began, Syrians turned on their taps and got nothing most days of the week.
“By 2000 our balance was really strained,” says Kushnir. “We would have had to cut back drastically in agriculture or industry or home use and we weren’t prepared to do that. We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with.”
The solution was desalination, on a major scale — the third phase in a water revolution that had begun with the water carrier and continued with recycling. The first large desalination plant came on line in Ashkelon in 2005, followed by Palmahim and Hadera. By the end of this year, when the Soreq and Ashdod plants are working, there’ll be five plants — built privately at a cost of NIS 6-7 billion (about $2 billion).
Israel uses 2 billion cubic meters of water per year — which is actually a little less than a decade ago, as efficiencies have been introduced in agriculture (which uses 700 million), and water-saving awareness has permeated. Of that two billion, half will be “artificially” manufactured by year’s end — 600 million cubic meters from those desalination plants, and 400 from purified sewage and brackish water.
“We’re not the world’s biggest desalinators,” notes Kushnir, “but no one has made the shift so fast to a situation where half of its water needs are filled from ‘artificial’ sources. And it means we are now ready for the next decade, without dramatic dependence on rainfall fluctuations.”
Kushnir regards this as a remarkable achievement — “a lesson for the rest of the world,” he says, “or at least those many parts of the world that are grappling with variants of the difficulties Israel has overcome.”
So the “Israel’s drying out” ads have gone off the air, and the panicked warnings are over. But that doesn’t mean Israelis should now wash their cars with sloshing abandon, shower for hours, or hose their lawns (if they’re lucky enough to have one) day and night.
“In our region, you always have to save water,” Kushnir stresses. “There has to be intelligent water use. But I’m not going to scream at people anymore.”
The campaigns were demonstrably effective; they reduced water use by at least 10 percent, Kushnir says. “In 2000, it was 100 cubic meters per person per year. Nowadays it’s 90. That saved us a desalination plant.”
But Israel can afford to relax, at least a little. “Our job is to ensure that when you turn on the tap, water comes out,” says Kushnir. “Well, we’ve done that. People have to continue to be smart. This isn’t London or Washington, DC. You have to use water as appropriate to our region. There has to be awareness that water is a precious resource, and we have to manufacture much of it, and that costs money. The manufacture also creates carbon dioxide and that affects the environment. So, I’m not trying to scare the public. You want water, here’s water. Use it. Use it as you want, but use it wisely.”
Where does Kushnir stand on global warming? Does he see it impacting annual rainfall? “There are dramatic changes in water fall,” he responds. “We need to be prepared for graver, longer droughts. If we see global warming having more of an effect, we’ll have to increase the desalination factor. If not, we’ll stay at the current fifty-fifty.
“Personally,” he goes on, “I’m a bit skeptical that global warming is a consequence of human activity. There is partial proof that human activity has exacerbated it. [But] it might be normal fluctuations. Remember,” he adds, “I’m supposed to be skeptical when I decide where to spend our billions.”
For all the announced success, should we be concerned that it might have come too late — that desalination should have been implemented earlier, reducing the heavy pumping from the Kinneret and the aquifers?
“Yes, we could have started desalination earlier. The damage to our natural resources would have been lighter,” Kushnir agrees. “We came very close to the black lines in the aquifers and the Kinneret which could have caused multi-year damage. Did we do harm? I hope not. But we’re moving away from the black lines now, even from the warning red lines. The immediate refilling and rehabilitation of the Sea of Galilee looks nice, but the aquifers are the key and we’re still 1 billion cubic meters to the optimal levels. Yet we’re legitimately optimistic.” (As of late February, the Sea of Galilee was at 210.24 meters below sea level, its highest level in seven years, which is a healthy 2.65 meters above the “lower red line” and 1.56 meters below the “upper red line” — the point at which the lake is considered full.)
At the same time as desalination has supplemented natural sources, he adds, Israel has also become more efficient in the collection of rainfall. “As we improve, our aquifers will refill. Our springs will fill up. Then we’ll really have done our bit.”
What about the rest of the immediate neighborhood, those who work with Israel, and those who are hostile to Israel?
Kushnir says Israel supplies an annual 100 million cubic meters in total to the Palestinian Authority (30 million) and to Jordan (70 million), in line with formal agreements. He says the PA has failed to develop all the infrastructure necessary to maximize available water, and would reach “reasonable, appropriate levels” if it did so. “They can take quite a lot from the eastern aquifer. There are natural sources they didn’t develop. It’s detailed in the interim agreements.” He also says that among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, water use is similar to that inside sovereign Israel.
Kushnir says he meets with the head of the PA’s water authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili. “We speak to them all the time and we tell them how we managed, including by purifying sewage.”
Attili, for his part, last October accused Israel of charging “extortionate” prices for the water it supplies, and the PA has claimed that Israel’s refusal to let it drill in various locations above aquifers, as well as disappointing results from the developments it has introduced, force it to continue to depend upon those Israeli supplies.
“Our water market is no longer subsidized by the state,” Kushnir responds, “not since 2007.”
As for Jordan, Kushnir says the two countries work together effectively. Ever since the Israel-Jordan border demarcation was adjusted under the 1994 peace accord, Jordan has allowed Israel to maintain its drilling facilities inside what became Jordanian territory in the south, “and we help them in the north.”
It was King Abdullah’s father Hussein who would warn about water shortages prompting the next Middle East war. As far as Kushnir is concerned, the Israeli-Jordanian working relationship where water is concerned assuages any such worry. “There is such good mutual respect and interest,” he says. “We help each other. [Relatively speaking,] they have water; their challenge is how to deliver it. There’s the Red-Dead project where we can argue about the specifics. They’re thinking of desalination in Aqaba. They have a plan for use of brackish water. They can solve their problems overall, and we’ll be happy to help.
Beyond Jordan, though, has the fear of drought-stoked conflict disappeared? Israel, Syria and Lebanon have long contested water rights, and intermittently accused each other of abuses. Gaza faces acute water shortages.
“We know that geostrategic changes in the region can endanger our water sources,” Kushnir allows. “We certainly can’t afford to give up our natural resources.”
Treading delicately, Kushnir notes that, despite the new successes, the Dead Sea, for instance, is “missing billions of cubic meters.” One day, he muses, “Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel could potentially redirect the waters of the Litani River,” in Lebanon, to begin to address that challenge. “Of course, he adds, with magnificent understatement, “we would have to be in a situation of constructive dialogue.”
For all that Israel’s new water health is legitimately hailed as a remarkable achievement, that utopian vision — of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel engaged in “constructive dialogue” — would seem beyond the foreseeable ambitions of even the most skilled and optimistic of rainmakers.
In the Middle East a present days STONE AGE is preferable to the ongoing finger-on-the-trigger performance (small arms) and immensely better then the introduction of Weapons of Mass Destruction – this despite what some say on the internet or mass media.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
The Stone Age
A few weeks ago a military judge, Major Amir Dahan, acquitted four Palestinians of the charge of “attempted murder by throwing stones at vehicles”. He stated that “throwing stones can, under some circumstances, have the character of a lethal offence, carrying the near certainty of a danger to human life – but under other circumstances it might be no more than a prank without the potential of serious damage, by a young person who had barely crossed into the age of criminal responsibility”.This verdict angered Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party, who said in the beginning of last week: “This is no way to render judgment in Israel. It is about such things that we daily utter the prayer “O restore our judges, as of old”. We should not tolerate even one stone. We must not forgive even one stone . A stone kills”.Later this week, the head of the party joined Ariel. The well known Naftali Bennett, Minister of Economy, made a public call to change the rules of engagement so as to allow soldiers a much lighter trigger finger when facing Palestinians, since “travelling the roads of Judea and Samaria has turned into hell.”The press tycoon Shlomo Ben-Zvi, who a few months ago bought the failing “Ma’ariv” paper, also joined the fray. Already for several days the Ma’ariv headlines are mainly concerned with the stone age which had descended on the West Bank. Ma’ariv devotes pages upon pages to the cry of the settlers, stridently demanding that soldiers finally start shooting and killing stone throwers. The paper’s reporters gathered the shocking testimonies of soldiers asserting that their hands are tied behind their backs by the military orders. “The best guys, the best fighters, salt of the earth”, reporter Chen Kutas- Bar called them.
Also columnist Adi Arbel of the Institute for Zionist Strategies added his own account of a terrible event he had witnessed. Last week, at noon of the celebrated Jerusalem Day, several VIPs of the Israeli right wing camp went to the settler enclave at the heart of Silwan Village, to get there the Moskowitz Prize from the multi-millionaire Irving Moskowitz – the well known settler patron who for this occasion left for two days his flourishing gambling business in California. It happened that on their way to this event, the settlers and their friends went through the Palestinian neighborhood of A-Tur on Mount Olive, where a boy of about 18 threw a stone at their bus. And alas, laments the Zionist strategist, nothing happened to this boy , no policeman and no soldier thought of pulling a weapon and opening fire on him. Adi Arbel’s sad conclusion: even after 46 years, East Jerusalem is not under Israeli sovereignty. Well, with that I am not going to dispute.
And what about when settlers gather alongside the highway and throw stones at each passing Palestinian car? What happens when they aim a whole barrage of stones at a school bus full of Palestinian girl pupils and wound some of them? Should that, too, be treated as a case where even one stone could not be tolerated or forgiven, because “a stone kills”? Is that also the kind of situation where the rules of engagement should be changed and soldiers’ fingers become more loose on the trigger? Or perhaps this is exactly the case where stone-throwing is indeed no more than a prank without the potential of serious damage? Well, it’s no use to pose too many questions to the honorable minister Uri Ariel and to the honorable minister Naftali Bennett and to Ma’ariv publisher Shlomo Ben-Zvi and his well-trained reporters.
By coincidence or not, it was just this week that a military court was hearing the case of a soldier who did not feel that his hands were tied and who had no particular problem to tighten his finger on the trigger. On 12 January this year – just in the midst of the Israeli elections campaign in which hardly anyone mentioned the Palestinians – this soldier (whose name is not published) was stationed in South Hebron Hills at a point where Palestinians are habitually trying to cross into Israel and find work. Many of them do succeed in their attempt. Unfortunately for the 21-year old Uday Darwish of the town of Dura, this particular soldier did open fire and he was hit and died a few hours later in the hospital, his funeral attended by thousands.
This particular soldier did not assert that army regulations had bound his hands. “This is the first time I encountered a shooting event, it never happened to me before. I never before got to such a situation of standing in front of 30 people I don’t know. Earlier we had been on the border of Egypt where a lot of Sudanese were passing we were always warned that in any group of Sudanese who come to Israel there is the hazard that one would be wielding a stabbing knife or wearing an explosive belt or something like that. ” (As a matter of fact, among tens of thousands of Sudanese who arrived in Israel until now there had never been any such case…)
The Prosecution wants to treat this case severely, and therefore impose a full nine months’ imprisonment and also demote the soldier one notch, from Staff Sergeant to an ordinary Sergeant. However, the soldier’s attorney, Yechiel Lamesh, asked the court to content itself with a term of three months, since “We should send a message to the fighters who risk their lives for us. We should understand and make it clear to them that to err is human and that an error, even a severe one, need not draw upon them the full severity of the law .” The defense attorney also asked that his client not be demoted, so as not to hurt the honor and dignity of this fighter of the Israel Defense Forces.
So, what the appropriate punishment for a soldier who shot and killed (not on purpose) a Palestinian worker who was going to sustain his family? Three months, or nine months, or something in between? Will he be demoted by one notch, or would the court take care not to hurt his honor and dignity? The Court is to convene again at the end of the month and make clear if they take up the prosecution’s case or that of the defense.
But what about one who did not shoot and did not kill anyone and who in the first place refused to join the army of occupation and wear its uniform and swear allegiance to it? One who altogether refused to get himself into a situation where he would stand armed in front of thirty people whom he has never seen before and have their lives and deaths at the mercy of his finger on the trigger? What is the proper punishment for such a crime of refusal? Half a year? A year? Two years? That is not yet clear.
Half a year has already passed since Natan Blanc arrived at the IDF Recruitment Center on his call-up date, November 19, 2012, and provided the recruitment officer with a detailed and reasoned letter setting out the reasons for his refusal to enlist. Half a year in which he is going in and out of Military Prison 6, in and out, in and out, in and out and in again.
The army chose not to bring him to a military court, whose proceedings are held in public and where the defendant can have a defense attorney and set out legal arguments and also express from the dock a conscientious and principled position. Instead, Natan Blanc is being repeatedly brought before a military officer who had been authorized to serve as a Judging Officer. A trial by a Judging Officer is a much simpler and easier affair – without the presence of any public, without lawyers and without witnesses and without any complicated legal procedures. Court is held in the normal office of the Judging Officer, with nobody present except the judge and the defendant, and usually lasts all of three to five minutes. In exceptional cases it can drag on up to ten minutes. Natan Blanc has already passed through very many such mini-trials, being sent to jail sometimes for two weeks, sometimes three weeks, sometimes a month. Each time he gets out of jail and is given another order to enlist and returns again to the office of the Judging Officer. So far he already accumulated 150 days behind bars, which is definitely not the end.
Yesterday, Friday, May 17, 2013, Natan Blanc celebrated his twentieth birthday behind bars at Military Prison 6 in Atlit. The activists of the Yesh Gvul movement came in the afternoon to celebrate with him on the mountain opposite the prison, whose summit was seen from the prison yard by several generations of refusers since the first Lebanon War in 1982. “Let’s celebrate! Come with your friends, bring refreshments and party accessories, especially those which can be seen or heard from very far: balloons, ribbons, signs, noise makers, whistles etc. ” was written in the invitation. On Tuesday there will be another demonstration, held in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, and the case of Blanc also gets increasing international attention.
Blanc told the military officers and judges that, once released from the army (and jail) he is going to do civilian service at the Magen David Adom medical rescue service. But when is that going to happen? The office of the IDF spokesman was not very forthcoming “A person liable for military service, whose application for exemption on grounds of conscience is denied, must perform a term of military service as set out in the Defense Service Act. One who refuses to do would be treated in accordance with the regular procedures.” Period.
It may very well that the soldier who killed Uday Darwish will be set free earlier.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FOLLOWING:
Ministers blast violence at ultra-Orthodox rally
Deputy finance minister calls protesters’ actions at demonstration against draft law ‘shameful’ and a crossing of ‘all the red lines’ – 10 policemen injured by these draft-refuseniks from the ranks of those claiming the Jewish religion. Are their stones any different?
May 17, 2013,
Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy on Friday slammed ultra-Orthodox demonstrators who took part in violence at a Jerusalem rally Thursday protesting the universal draft law, claiming that their behavior “crossed all the red lines.”
Levy posted on his Facebook page that the injuring of 10 policemen by the protesters was shameful and unacceptable. He further stressed that the government would continue to promote equality in the burden of army service, and would work against extremists who want to “preserve poverty and discrimination.”
Bollards are those 3 ft. tall figures that the 9/11 events positioned around our most important sites. They are barriers in our minds and a concession to the extremists that hate us. Could we not figure out now a defense following 4/16/2013 in Boston and 9/11/2012 in Benghazi?
Opinions – published by The Washington Post.
The invasion of the bollards.
Look at the landscape design of the Capitol gardens and grounds, created by the masterful Frederick Law Olmsted after the Civil War. He envisioned the approach to the dome of democracy as flowing, transparent and open to all. Just as the dialogue of democracy represents all comers as equals in the public square.
Olmsted, the famous Central Park landscape architect, put the terrace and stairs on the West Front of the Capitol to fuse it with its setting. That also expanded the Capitol’s access in an elegant exterior form. Verandas always make a house or building seem more smiling and friendly.
In other words, Olmsted’s message spoke: “Come in! You are part of this place.” The opposite is true now. The bollards don’t beckon and invite you in — as a citizen — to witness the noisy marketplace of ideas and enjoy the grandeur of the Capitol Rotunda art.
Rather, they say: “Keep out!” Along with stumpy bollards, the Capitol police’s heavy presence — backed up by guardhouses and a hazardous material rescue truck — darkens the everyday experience. The Olmsted plan’s lawns and trees have notably diminished since Sept. 11.
The northeast corner of First and Constitution avenues, on the Senate side, used to be an inspiring vista to the Capitol. Now it feels like the edge of a fortress. Nearby, the Supreme Court looks even worse. Bollards clash with the bright white marble stairs to the courthouse door, which is no longer a public entrance.
Then there’s the Treasury and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is closed off to traffic, with bollards working overtime. Such a wide-open street is not as ideal as it seems for creating civic order. On a sunny spring afternoon, about 25 Marines (off-duty) were doing a grueling “Goruck challenge” wearing camouflage. This required one guy to carry another on his back while sweating, grunting and swearing in view of the Treasury statues and tourists.
Little by little, bollards are coarsening our conduct, and soon schoolchildren won’t know America any other way. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombs, it’s clear that bollards would not have stopped the Tsarnaev brothers. As Boston amply demonstrated, the best preparedness comes from quick thinking and coordinated actions by civilians, police, fire and medical personnel.
Washington, meanwhile, may be lulled into a false sense of security with our unsightly bollards.
Jamie Stiehm is a Creators Syndicate columnist.
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, spoke yesterday, May 10, 2013, during a discussion on counter-terrorism at the UN Security Council.
In his remarks, Ambassador Prosor compared terrorism to a “growth industry,” with a “business development arm” and a “human resources division.”
· “Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter sets out the Security Council’s powers to maintain peace. There is no greater threat to international stability than those who use fundamentalism to advance their personal ideologies and agendas.
It is time for the international community to unite and put terrorism out of business. The Security Council must further utilize Chapter Seven of the Charter to force terrorist groups to file for Chapter Seven bankruptcy. The failure to do so would be nothing less than moral bankruptcy.”
He also said:
· “We face the frightening possibility that Hezbollah could soon get its hands on Syria’s vast stockpiles of chemical weapons. The threat of game-changing weapons reaching Hezbollah is substantiated by Nasrallah himself, who yesterday said – and one should listen
very carefully – I quote, ‘Syria will give the resistance special weapons it never had before.’ This Council must act today, not tomorrow. We will not allow Hezbollah – and I’d like to emphasize this clearly – to test our resolve,” the Ambassador said.
The relation between the above and a passive defense-that-is-not – is the need to tackle the scourge of extremism in Islamic hatred to everything Western is that passivity does not work. Even those that contend that the West did some terrible things to the Islamic parts of the World in the past, do not have the right to ask for redress by perpetuating indiscriminate killings now.
May 11, 2013
The Donkey of the Messiah
“THE TWO-STATE solution is dead!” This mantra has been repeated so often lately, by so many authoritative commentators, that it must be true.
Well, it ain‘t.
It reminds one of Mark Twain’s oft quoted words: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
BY NOW this has become an intellectual fad. To advocate the two-state solution means that you are ancient, old-fashioned, stale, stodgy, a fossil from a bygone era. Hoisting the flag of the “one-state solution” means that you are young, forward-looking, “cool”.
Actually, this only shows how ideas move in circles. When we declared in early 1949, just after the end of the first Israeli-Arab war, that the only answer to the new situation was the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, the “one-state solution” was already old.
The idea of a “bi-national state” was in vogue in the 1930s. Its main advocates were well-meaning intellectuals, many of them luminaries of the new Hebrew University, like Judah Leon Magnes and Martin Buber. They were reinforced by the Hashomer Hatza’ir kibbutz movement, which later became the Mapam party.
It never gained any traction. The Arabs believed that it was a Jewish trick. Bi-nationalism was built on the principle of parity between the two populations in Palestine – 50% Jews, 50% Arabs. Since the Jews at that time were much less than half the population, Arab suspicions were reasonable.
On the Jewish side, the idea looked ridiculous. The very essence of Zionism was to have a state where Jews would be masters of their fate, preferably in all of Palestine.
At the time, no one called it the “one-state solution” because there was already one state – the State of Palestine, ruled by the British. The “solution” was called “the bi-national state” and died, unmourned, in the war of 1948.
WHAT HAS caused the miraculous resurrection of this idea?
Not the birth of a new love between the two peoples. Such a phenomenon would have been wonderful, even miraculous. If Israelis and Palestinians had discovered their common values, the common roots of their history and languages, their common love for this country – why, wouldn’t that have been absolutely splendid?
But, alas, the renewed “one-state solution” was not born of another immaculate conception. Its father is the occupation, its mother despair.
The occupation has already created a de facto One State – an evil state of oppression and brutality, in which half the population (or slightly less than half) deprives the other half of almost all rights – human rights, economic rights and political rights. The Jewish settlements proliferate, and every day brings new stories of woe.
Good people on both sides have lost hope. But hopelessness does not stir to action. It fosters resignation.
LET’S GO back to the starting point. “The two-state solution is dead”. How come? Who says? In accordance with what scientific criteria has death been certified?
Generally, the spread of the settlements is cited as the sign of death. In the 1980s the respected Israeli historian Meron Benvenisti pronounced that the situation had now become “irreversible”. At the time, there were hardly 100 thousand settlers in the occupied territories (apart from East Jerusalem, which by common consent is a separate issue). Now they claim to be 300 thousand, but who is counting? How many settlers mean irreversibility? 100, 300, 500, 800 thousand?
History is a hothouse of reversibility. Empires grow and collapse. Cultures flourish and wither. So do social and economic patterns. Only death is irreversible.
I can think of a dozen different ways to solve the settlement problem, from forcible removal to exchange of territories to Palestinian citizenship. Who believed that the settlements in North Sinai would be removed so easily? That the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements would become a national farce?
In the end, there will probably be a mixture of several ways, according to circumstances.
All the Herculean problems of the conflict can be resolved – if there is a will. It’s the will that is the real problem.
THE ONE-STATERS like to base themselves on the South African experience. For them, Israel is an apartheid state, like the former South Africa, and therefore the solution must be South African-like.
The situation in the occupied territories, and to some extent in Israel proper, does indeed strongly resemble the apartheid regime. The apartheid example may be justly cited in political debate. But in reality, there is very little deeper resemblance – if any – between the two countries.
David Ben-Gurion once gave the South African leaders a piece of advice: partition. Concentrate the white population in the south, in the Cape region, and cede the other parts of the country to the blacks. Both sides in South Africa rejected this idea furiously, because both sides believed in a single, united country.
They largely spoke the same languages, adhered to the same religion, were integrated in the same economy. The fight was about the master-slave relationship, with a small minority lording it over a massive majority.
Nothing of this is true in our country. Here we have two different nations, two populations of nearly equal size, two languages, two (or rather, three) religions, two cultures, two totally different economies.
A false proposition leads to false conclusions. One of them is that Israel, like Apartheid South Africa, can be brought to its knees by an international boycott. About South Africa, this is a patronizing imperialist illusion. The boycott, moral and important as it was, did not do the job. It was the Africans themselves, aided by some local white idealists, who did it by their courageous strikes and uprisings.
I am an optimist, and I do hope that eventually Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs will become sister nations, living side by side in harmony. But to come to that point, there must be a period of living peacefully in two adjoining states, hopefully with open borders.
THE PEOPLE who speak now of the “one-state solution” are idealists. But they do a lot of harm. And not only because they remove themselves and others from the struggle for the only solution that is realistic.
If we are going to live together in one state, it makes no sense to fight against the settlements. If Haifa and Ramallah will be in the same state, what is the difference between a settlement near Haifa and one near Ramallah? But the fight against the settlements is absolutely essential, it is the main battlefield in the struggle for peace.
Indeed, the one-state solution is the common aim of the extreme Zionist right and the extreme anti-Zionist left. And since the right is incomparably stronger, it is the left that is aiding the right, and not the other way round.
In theory, that is as it should be. Because the one-staters believe that the rightists are only preparing the ground for their future paradise. The right is uniting the country and putting an end to the possibility of creating an independent State of Palestine. They will subject the Palestinians to all the horrors of apartheid and much more, since the South African racists did not aim at displacing and replacing the blacks. But in due course – perhaps in a mere few decades, or half a century – the world will compel Greater Israel to grant the Palestinians full rights, and Israel will become Palestine.
According to this ultra-leftist theory, the right, which is now creating the racist one state, is in reality the Donkey of the Messiah, the legendary animal on which the Messiah will ride to triumph.
It’s a beautiful theory, but what is the assurance that this will actually happen? And before the final stage arrives, what will happen to the Palestinian people? Who will compel the rulers of Greater Israel to accept the diktat of world public opinion?
If Israel now refuses to bow to world opinion and enable the Palestinians to have their own state in 28% of historical Palestine, why would they bow to world opinion in the future and dismantle Israel altogether?
Speaking about a process that will surely last 50 years and more, who knows what will happen? What changes will take place in the world in the meantime? What wars and other catastrophes will take the world’s mind off the “Palestinian issue”?
Would one really gamble the fate of one’s nation on a far-fetched theory like this?
ASSUMING FOR a moment that the one-state solution would really come about, how would it function?
Will Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs serve in the same army, pay the same taxes, obey the same laws, work together in the same political parties? Will there be social intercourse between them? Or will the state sink into an interminable civil war?
Other peoples have found it impossible to live together in one state. Take the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia. Serbia. Czechoslovakia. Cyprus. Sudan. The Scots want to secede from the United Kingdom. So do the Basques and the Catalans from Spain. The French in Canada and the Flemish in Belgium are uneasy. As far as I know, nowhere in the entire world have two different peoples agreed to form a joint state for decades.
NO, THE two-state solution is not dead. It cannot die, because it is the only solution there is.
Despair may be convenient and tempting. But despair is no solution at all.
And from the Editor of Tikkun Magazine – Rabbi Michael Lerner who says that threatening with a One State Solution will scare Israelis in opting for a Two States Solution. we would like to repeat our belief that for the sake of expediency, and judging from the fact that Hamas is there to stay, we suggest a Three State Solution.
Editor’s Note: Uri Avnery, chair of Israel’s peace movement Gush Shalom in Tel Aviv, challenges those lefties and righties who repeat the mantra that “the 2 state soluiton is dead.” If only the “One State” solution is on the agenda, he points out, then all those Israelis who have been demonstrating against new settlements have no case whatsoever, since in a one state solution both Israelis and Palesitnians should be able to buld anyplace they want within that state and settlement construciton should be viewed as a step in that direction! He seems to be saying to peace people: you can’t have it both ways–if you want one state then you have no good grounds to oppose Jews building wherever they want in that supposedly emerging one state. I have one disagreement with Avnery’s piece below: I think if Palestinians and peaceniks around the world were to embrace one state and switch their demands to a simple one: “One person one vote throughout Israel/Palestine” this prospect might seem so overwhelmingly scary to Israelis that it would create the political pressure inside Israel to seriously negotiate a two state solution. It might be that asking for one state is the only way Palesitnians will get a two state solution. Just a possibility to consider.
–Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun www.tikkun.org
A recent visitor to Amman reports some senior Jordanians declaring openly that “there never was a place called Palestine. There is no such thing as Palestine, only Jordan.” Such sentiments, while still a minority view, mark a sea change in the long-standing Jordanian deference to the PLO on developments west of the Jordan River. According to one Palestinian, such views are being encouraged by some voices in Fatah, who fear Hamas’ baton more than Amman’s reluctant embrace, and who no doubt believe, as many veterans in Fatah do, that all it will take to turn Jordan into Palestine is a Palestinian decision to do so.
“Jordan is Palestine” is the mirror image of “Palestine is Jordan.” Jordanians identified with the latter are not contemplating a confederal agreement between respective Jordanian and and Palestinian states, but rather the restoration of Jordan’s uncontested place in Jerusalem and the West Bank on the eve of the June 1967 war.
The ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is not to be envied. History and geography have played a cruel trick on the leader of this unlikely country. He is squeezed between more powerful and often warring parties, presiding over a population of subjects thrown together by war and circumstance.To its credit, Jordan has succeeded more often than it has failed to construct a popular and workable, if fragile sense of national identity shared by disparate Palestinian and Transjordanian communities during the last nine decades. However, the self-immolation of Syria, Fatah’s failure to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the uncertain promise of the Arab Spring are posing new and unprecedented challenges for King Abdullah II, whose head lies ever uneasy on the royal throne.
The feasting on the corpse that was once Syria poses the most immediate challenge to Jordan, and it was at the heart of recent discussions during the King’s recent visit to Washington in the last week of April. But Jordan’s cascading problem managing the fallout from Syria complements the more essential challenge that has always been uppermost in the mind of Jordan’s political elite as well as its growing Islamic opposition. This challenge, of course, relates to the Palestinian dimension of Jordan’s national identity, and the King’s ability to manage this without his Hashemite or Transjordanian identity suffering as a consequence.
It is against Jordan’s basic nature to make precipitous moves in any direction, yet a dynamic trend favoring a “New Look” in Jordan’s Palestine policy — one that is viewed sympathetically in both Jerusalem and Washington — is hard to ignore.
For many years now Jordan has been confronting a most unwelcome strategic environment to its west, across the Jordan River. Fatah has failed to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the growing power of Hamas as a political factor has proceeded in tandem. Fatah is no friend of Jordan, where memories of Black September remain etched in the consciousness of the Jordanian elite. But Jordan long ago was forced by its own failures and by circumstances beyond its control to make its peace with the PLO, not only as the recognized representative of the Palestinian people — at least those residing east of the Jordan River —- but also as a strategic buffer against Israeli, American and Islamic/Arab claims against Amman. The PLO, notably after King Hussein’s 1988 disengagement from the West Bank, became Jordan’s insurance policy against the imposition of a solution at Jordan’s expense to Palestine’s problems in West Bank and Gaza Strip.
To Jordan’s dismay, it is being forced to realize that Fatah and the PLO it embodies cannot perform this task. This conclusion has been debated from time to time in recent years. The barometer of these discussions is Amman’s on-again, off-again dance with Khaled Meshaal and Hamas, most notably the 2009 thaw in relations engineered by Gen. Mohammad Dhahabi, who was at the time head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department. If Fatah cannot be a Palestinian shield protecting Jordanian interests in a quiescent West Bank, it is argued, then perhaps Hamas should be given a go.
The other option, and the one today at the center of Jordan’s agenda, suggests a fundamental rethinking of Jordan’s exit from the West Bank that began with King Hussein’s failure in 1972 to reach an agreement on Israeli withdrawal with Moshe Dayan and that gained momentum with the Arab League decision to recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974. Like Jordan’s unenthusiastic turn in Hamas’ direction, this option reflects Jordan’s despair at Fatah’s failure and is a hedge against Fatah’s capitulation to Israel in a deal that would endanger Jordan’s interest in preventing an influx of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan River.
One example of this trend is the “historic,” if precipitous, agreement between King Abdullah and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas in March confirming the Jordanian king’s stewardship of the holy places in Jerusalem.
“In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque,” the palace said in a statement. Abbas said that the agreement confirmed “Jordan’s role since the era of the late King Hussein” and that it consolidated agreements established decades ago.
Abbas’ signature marks the first formal Palestinian recognition of Jordan’s central role in Jerusalem and it complements the understanding detailed in Jordan’s treaty with Israel in 1994. The treaty notes that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”
Abbas’ interest in formalizing Jordan’s role is a function of Palestinian weakness and stands in ironic contrast to the nominal, and apparently symbolic boost for sovereignty won at the UN last November.
The understanding on Jerusalem reflects the PLO’s interest in Amman as a diplomatic safe harbor, protecting against both Hamas and Israel, and Amman’s readiness to reaffirm its interest in Jerusalem at the PLO’s (and Hamas’) expense.
These interests are not inconsistent with the evolving diplomatic strategy being pursued by US Secretary of State John Kerry. For more than a year, Amman has been a key way station of Washington’s diplomacy, much to the dismay of some in Egypt who preside over long-stalled reconciliation efforts. But unlike President Mohammad Morsi, King Abdullah is interested in being identified with any American effort. Even if opposed to the ideas Kerry is now circulating, Jordan has rarely viewed itself as in a position to reject US efforts.
“Palestine is Jordan” has long been the rallying cry of Israel’s right wing. It is now finding an uncertain echo in Jordan.
“We are extremely encouraged by the results of the Secretary’s meetings in Moscow with the President and with the Foreign Minister and salute your achievements in that regard by identifying a path forward,” Judeh said at a meeting with Kerry at the US ambassador’s residence in Rome Thursday.
Jordan’s position, Judeh said, is that there “has to be a transitional period that results in a political solution that includes all the segments of Syrian society, no exclusion whatsoever…preserves Syria’s territorial integrity and unity, and…guarantees… pluralism and opportunity for everybody.”
Judeh said he was heading to Moscow Thursday for further discussions. On Tuesday, Judeh issued a joint call with Iran’s visiting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi for both sides in Syria’s civil war to enter talks on a transition government.
Kerry, on the final leg of a trip to Moscow and Rome, said Thursday that he had sent US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford on to Istanbul to meet with the Syrian opposition and begin work to persuade them to come to the peace conference. They have expressed misgivings because it would get underway before any agreement on the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although US officials insist US policy hasn’t changed and that they do not see any possibility where Assad could remain the leader of Syria.
“The specific work of this next conference will be to bring representatives of the government and the opposition together to determine how we can fully implement the means of the [Geneva] communique, understanding that the communique’s language specifically says that the Government of Syria and the opposition have to put together, by mutual consent, the parties that will then become the transitional government itself,” Kerry said at a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.
Washington and Moscow actually have common ground on Syria, except for the issue of the sequencing of the transition, Russian foreign affairs analyst Fyodor Lukyanov wrote for Al-Monitor Thursday.
“We can say that Russia and the US differ today on only one issue: the sequence of actions,” Lukyanov wrote. “First Assad leaves, then the process of establishing a new political regime in Syria begins, or the other way around. Moscow supports the second version, and Washington the first. As strange as it seems, they are in agreement on everything else: After Assad, there is a risk that Syria will become ungovernable, and the goal of outside forces… is to prevent power from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists.”
The April 29 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and an Arab League ministerial delegation of the Arab Peace Initiative (API) follow-up committee carried a double message.
The first was the United States’ willingness to seriously explore the possibility of resuming negotiations with the aim of ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after visits to the region by President Barack Obama and the secretary of state.
Skeptics worry that a division of labor decided by the US president, whereby he focuses on Asia while leaving the Arab-Israeli conflict to his secretary of state, is not very promising, despite the commitment and personality of the latter.
The second message is that Arabs have been waiting for a willingness to dust off the API, as I have previously argued here, and put it on their agenda with the United States. They are showing a readiness to invest in the Palestinian issue at this critical moment in Syria. The meeting should be the beginning of a process that would also involve intensive US-Israeli contacts and other concerned parties in serious negotiations. Such negotiations should be conducted on a basis different from those that have failed to produce results for two decades.
Yet the Arab willingness to accept the principle of territorial swaps — limited as well as symmetrical in terms of area and quality — was seen by others in the United States and Israel conversely: something to precede the negotiations, or to be addressed separately from the basic issue, which is Israel’s acceptance of the June 1967 borders in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 242.
Indeed, this resolution should be the basis for a settlement of the conflict and of a resolution of the occupation. The Palestinians have indicated many times their acceptance of minor adjustments to the borders of 1967 — adjustments that will be considered only in the context of negotiations for the two-state solution, not before.
Israel must formally accept the 1967 borders instead of engaging continuously in diplomatic acrobatics over the version of the Resolution 242 in which there is an omission of the word “the” before “territories.” Israel’s aim is to suggest that it does not have to withdraw from all the occupied territories and to legitimize its occupation of the territories it wants to annex. Yet the preamble of the resolution clearly states the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by means of war, thus invalidating the Israeli argument. Minor, symmetrical adjustments are an integrated part and facilitator of that deal, well defined according to Resolution 242. This does not allow for an unknown offer to be made by Israel.
It is equally important that Israel cease all settlement activity, which Obama mildly criticized during his visit as detrimental to the process. Indeed, they represent a real danger to a peaceful resolution because they systematically destroy any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
Also, suggesting Arab normalization with Israel as an encouraging gesture toward Israel, a free gift, further complicates matters. The focus must be on the United States and other third parties committed to peace in the Middle East and aware of the dangers of inaction to spell out the guidelines for reaching peace.
These guidelines are found in relevant UN resolutions and earlier agreements. These third parties should stand firmly by these guidelines. This is how the United States, a third party, could make the serious resumption of negotiations on the basis of a clear timetable and not mere discussion. The aim is to reach a comprehensive peace that includes normalization, as is clearly stated in the API, without amendment, despite what some have insinuated.
It is worth noting that amending the API necessitates a resolution by an Arab Summit, a matter that is neither on the collective Arab agenda nor on the agenda of the delegation. It is needless to revive once more, under different names, interim solutions that will take us nowhere but to further crisis and result in more conflicts.
Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.
China-Israel Technology development common interest – can it answer the Palestinian’s search for a new interlocutor for a new set of negotiations? The Chinese Ambassador says – Israel is small in size but large in innovation.
Mahmoud Abbas was here in Vienna and visited some other European Heads of State – then he took the long flight to China. All of this is to explain his position and look for new interlocutors. Abbas does not need a door opener like Arafat did and The Austria of Messrs. Fisher, Fayman and Spindelegger, is not the Austria of “Old Chancellor” Kreisky. On the other hand China is something of a new a power in regard to West Asia – it has no previous involvement in the Middle East – except as customers for oil. Something that was facilitated to them by the US wars in Iraq.
Oh well – here are Abbas and Netanyahu in China!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrapped up the first day of a five-day visit to China by meeting with dozens of Israeli businesspeople who represent companies that operate in Shanghai. The Israeli company representatives expressed great appreciation for the Prime Minister’s efforts to increase trade with China and noted the great importance of government support to doing business in China.
“We must make the national effort to enter Chinese markets and to create partnerships. In addition to your private initiatives, we need to create a government track with the Chinese,” Netanyahu told the Israeli reps.
Following the meeting Netanyahu met with Israeli and Chinese businesspeople and stressed the importance of strengthening the two countries’ economic relationship.
“The future belongs to those who lead in innovation and technology,” he said, adding that Israel manufactures “more intellectual property than any other country in the world in relation to its size. If we create a partnership between Israel’s inventive capability and China’s manufacturing capability, we will have a winning combination.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also in China on an official visit. Xinhua quoted him as saying: “It is very good that Netanyahu will visit China too because it is a good opportunity that the Chinese listen to both of us.”
Netanyahu will fly to Beijing later in the week. He is expected to sign a number of trade deals and discuss the Iranian nuclear issue before departing Friday.
Al Monitor gives us the main News from the Near East: To solve Syria – Iran, Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey will have to talk about a political solution. If this is not possible there will be no other easy way.
A group of Muslim, Jewish and Christian chefs from Chefs for Peace, along with American celebrity chef Art Smith, gathered on April 28 in Jerusalem to cook vegetarian dishes for a group of 60 guests, including US diplomats and alumni and students from various universities in the United States.
The ceremony took place in one of the best-known restaurants in Jerusalem, Eucalyptus, owned by award-winning chef Moshe Bassam, who is known for including ingredients mentioned in the Bible in his dishes and for his love of the history behind foods. “Moshe is a living treasure of Israel,” said Smith. “We went to the countryside to pick up wild thyme, asparagus and wild mushrooms [before the event].”
Bassam is not the only person who takes pride in using homegrown herbs and vegetables. “I brought grapes from the [US] South to use in my dish during the weekend,” said Smith.
Each of the five chefs — four from Chefs for Peace plus Smith — prepared their dishes in front their guests. Smith’s dish, not surprisingly, was made of wild mushrooms, grapes and local herbs. Johnny Goric, another chef and the organizer of the event, made a Mediterranean lentil salad.
Smith and the group have one important goal: to create healthy and peaceful dishes. Chefs for Peace consists of 13 chefs, including founder Kevork Alemian, who cook all over the world, adhering to a few strict rules. First, every event must include at least one Muslim, one Christian and one Jewish chef. Second, there is no alcohol in any of the dishes. Third, everything is both kosher and halal.
“[The] kitchen can be a dangerous place,” said Alemian. “There are all kinds of sharp knives or smoke, and flames are everywhere, but we do not stab each other!”
The idea for Chefs for Peace first occurred to Alemian while at the Slow Food Festival in Italy about 12 years ago. He observed three chefs — a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim — working together to create different dishes for the festival.
Upon his return to Jerusalem in 2001, he gathered his chef friends to explain his idea for a nonprofit, non-political organization called Chefs for Peace. “[I] said, ‘Hey guys, listen, I have this crazy idea that is coming from a crazy Armenian chef,’” he explained. “Everything looked like a joke at the beginning.”
They launched their organization that year and have since traveled to numerous countries to cook for diverse groups of people. They understand the power of food as a bond between different peoples and religions, and they see peace as a delicious possibility.
One recent activity for Chefs for Peace was to cook for six days for a municipal council in the West Bank. The group had a commitment to travel to Nablus and then to Netanya in Israel to meet with different municipalities on both sides.
“These people couldn’t meet in the same place at the same time because the wall separated Israel from Palestine,” Goric explained. Chefs for Peace organized a special menu and gala dinner at an ancient chapel in Jerusalem. “You would feel all the holiness in the place,” Goric said.
According to Johnny Goric, executive chef of the Legacy Boutique Hotel in Jerusalem, Jewish, Christian and Muslim chefs have to work peacefully together in Jerusalem. “You would end up working under stress created by the intensity of your job,” Goric said. “There are flames around you, sharp knives everywhere, and you work for 12 to 14 hours straight without even have a fight about anything.”
Goric believes the kind of work these chefs do in Jerusalem kitchens should be a positive example for all Israelis and Palestinians. He asked, “Why can’t we bring this kind of work to the streets of Israel and Palestine, for the sake of peace for both people and both nations?”
In a region rife with conflict, uprisings and revolutions, peace is a perpetual question. On its website, Chefs for Peace indicates that its essential ingredients are bread and salt. Salt, in Middle Eastern cultures, symbolizes a bond of brotherhood.
“We do not waste our time in kitchens to talk about politics,” he said before pausing for a moment. “You know what we talk about? We talk about sex, life and enjoyment.”
Saideh Jamshidi is an American-Iranian journalist, filmmaker and editor covering Middle East news and Muslim women for the Global Press Institute and Chicagoistheworld.com. Saideh worked in major newspapers in Iran before settling in the United States as a foreign correspondent. On Twitter: @yazirum
The Decreasing Cost of Solar Energy – Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal — and in parts of the US such as the Southwest, solar is already at grid parity. Chinese solar panels fell in cost 50% in the 2009-2012 period and it is expected they will fall in cost further at a 30%/year rate. Japan will become this year second largest solar energy market beyond China. South Africa, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India increase their Solar Energy production as well.
The Incredible Shrinking Cost of Solar Energy.
04 May 13
ob Wile uses a graph to point out the obvious, the dramatic fall in the cost of solar power generation. In many countries– Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal — and in parts of the US such as the Southwest, solar is at grid parity. That means it is as inexpensive to build a solar plant as a gas or coal one. The pace of technological innovation in the solar field has also accelerated, so that costs have started falling precipitously and efficiency is rapidly increasing.
By 2015, solar panels should have fallen to 42 cents per watt.
Reneweconomy.com says that the best Chinese solar panels fell in cost by 50% between 2009 and 2012. That incredible achievement is what has driven so many solar companies bankrupt– if you have the older technology, your panels are suddenly expensive and you can’t compete. It is like no one wants a 4 year old computer.
Conservatives shed no tears when better computers drive slower ones out of the market, but point to solar companies’ shake-out as somehow bad or unnatural. No wonder US solar installations jumped 76% in 2012.
The reductions in cost over the next two years are expected to continue, at a slowing but still impressive 30% rate:
Construction has begun on the world’s largest solar plant. MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp. are building a 579 megawatt installation, the Antelope Valley Solar Project, in Kern and Los Angeles counties in California. That is half a gigawatt, just enormous. It will provide electricity to 400,000 homes in the state (roughly 2 million people?), and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 775,000 tons a year. The US emits 5 billion metric tons a year of C02, second only to China, and forms a big part of the world’s carbon problem all by itself. We just need 645 more of the Antelope Valley projects.
Important new research also shows that hybrid plants that have both solar panels and wind turbines dramatically increase efficiency and help with integration into the electrical grid. Earlier concerns that the turbines would cast shadows and so detract from the efficiency of the solar panels appear to have been overblown. Because in most places in the US there is more sun in the summer and more wind in the winter, a combined plant keeps the electricity feeding into the grid at a more constant rate all year round, which is more desirable than big spikes and fall-offs.
That Germany, then China, then the US are the world’s largest solar markets is no surprise. But that number 17 Japan will increase its solar installations by 120% in 2013 and so may be the second hottest solar market, just after China, this year, would mark a big change. Japan may well have 5 gigawatts of solar installed by the end of this year, even though the relatively new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is no particular friend of the renewables. In my own view, if Japan made the right governmental and private investments, it could overtake China in the solar field and reverse its long post-bubble stagnation.
ABB has been commissioned a large solar electricity generating plant on the edge of the Kalahari Desert near Cape Town, South Africa. It will supply the electricity needs of around 40,000 persons and reduce annual emissions by 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide. South Africa emits 500 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, and is third in the world for per capita emissions. (Still, it only emits a 10th as much over-all as the US). But they just need a thousand more plants like the Kalahari one, and voila! South Africa is also imposing a carbon tax, which will hurry things along. (At the moment, South Africa is far too dependent on dirty coal plants, which not only fuel climate change but also spew deadly toxins such as mercury into the atmosphere, whence it goes into human beings.
Because of South African and Israeli demand in particular, demand for solar panels in the Middle East and Africa has risen over 600% during the past year. Saudi Arabia’s announced plans to save its petroleum for export by going solar at home will add a great deal to regional demand if it sticks to those plans. (In most countries, petroleum isn’t used much for electricity generation as opposed to transportation, but in oil states such as Saudi Arabia it often is used in power plants; but that cuts down on foreign exchange earnings.)
The two Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan are emerging as the solar giants in India, with each having now passed half a gigawatt in solar electricity generation capacity. The two account for some 88% of all of India’s solar power. But Rajasthan may soon outstrip Gujarat, given the state’s solar-friendly commitments, its ample amounts of scorching sunlight, and its vast deserts.
The Middle East is back on the cooking stove slow burner in Washington, and Qatar announced that the Arab proposal of 2002 was not written in stone and it seems clear that as long as the Arabs did not solve the Syrian problem they are in no position to solve the Palestinian problem.
THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL May 3, 2013:
Oil Shales, Shale Gas, Shale Fuel for thermal plants – so many ways that produce spent shale and ash, heavy metals and Uranium, and to poison the underground aquifers. Do we really see the dangers when work is hidden from eye-sight by doing it under-ground?
April 15-21, 2013, I participated on a trip to Baltic Sea States of the KPV (Komunal Politische Vereignigung) of the Politische Akademie of the Austrian Peoples Party (OEVP). Above took us to Estonia Saturday April-20 to Sunday April 21-st. This was a weekend and it might have been a too short time for serious learning about matters of Energy Policy. But I was fortunate to come back with enough information because I had the chance to meet very helpful people and I was prepared ahead with my questions.
We drove from St. Petersburg in Russia to Narva in Estonia and then continued to the capital – Tallinn. We had the luck of having a very good Estonian guide and were honored that evening with a reception at the residence of Austrian Ambassador H. E. Ms. Renate Kobler who invited as well local and Austrian resource people and made sure to establish contacts according to our interests.
I had in effect two different set of interests. One was in regard to a transportation policy instituted this year by the city of Tallinn that offers free rides on the electric street-cars to documented residents of the city while having increased charges for the out-of-towners. The idea behind this being that people will be moving back to the city from the suburbs and increase the tax roles thus making up for some of the losses and allow for gains in air quality by getting out of their cars. I learned that though nice in theory, seemingly it did not work in practice because it applied mainly to the poor – so it did not result in enhanced income from taxes leaving just the lower income from the tram-rides. The topic was originally brought to my attention by the Austrian Standard of April 5, 2013.
This was the minor interest of my two suggested topics.
The other topic – and that one of major interest these days – dealt with the use of oil-shales for energy – an issue of global importance when Shale-Gas has become the energy interests’ battle cry. It was brought out of obscurity in the United States, and Europe is talking as if it was going to follow suit. Austria has also shales and at present media battles rage between business interests and the environmentalists – with the Eurosolar monthly table all convinced that Austria can become energy self-sufficient without touching the shales.
Estonia, as well as Spain, are countries with experience in what can happen when energy is obtained from these shales.
Under the Soviets, the shales were mined and used like a lower grade coal in thermal power plants. What was left are mountains of ash from the combustion process and mountains of spent shales from the retorting process in which the product was a synthetic crude oil. These mountains of by-product contain heavy metals and when washed by rains these heavy metals poisoned the underground water, thus making it unusable for drinking and agriculture. Everybody I talked to told me the same thing – the losses around Narva are immense.
Wikipedia tells us: “Oil shale in Estonia is an important resource for the national economy. Estonia‘s oil shale deposits account for just 17% of total deposits in the European Union but the country generates 90% of its power from this source. The oil shale industry in Estonia employs 7,500 people—about one percent of the national work force—and accounts for four percent of its gross domestic product.
There are two kinds of oil shale in Estonia – Dictyonema argillite (claystone) and kukersite. The first attempt to establish an open-cast oil shale pit and to start oil production was undertaken in 1838. Modern utilization of oil shale commenced in 1916. Production began in 1921 and the generation of power from oil shale in 1924.
In 2005 Estonia was the leading producer of shale oil in the world. Of all the power plants fired by oil shale, the largest was in this country. As of 2007, six mines (open cast or underground) were extracting oil shale in Estonia.“
Kukersite, named after the Kukruse settlement in Estonia, is the better quality shale. Estonian kukersite deposits are one of the world’s highest-grade shale deposits with more than 40% organic content and 66% conversion ratio into shale oil and oil shale gas. They have relatively a lower content of heavy metals.
in the 1830s, although the attempt of shale oil distillation failed, oil shale was used as a low-grade fuel. Then studies of Estonian oil shale resources and mining possibilities intensified in the beginning of 20th century because of industrial development of Saint Petersburg and a shortage of fuel resources in the region. Finally – the world’s two largest oil shale-fired power stations – Balti Power Plant and Eesti Power Plant (known as the Narva Power Plants) – were opened in 1965 and in 1973. Because of the success of oil shale-based power generation, Estonian oil shale production peaked in 1980 at 31.35 million tonnes. In 2004, two power units with circulating fluidized bed combustion (CFBC) boilers were put into operation at Narva Power Plant. In 1984, the scientific-technical journal Oil Shale was founded in Estonia.
Some of the spent shale is used in cement manufacturing and Uranium is a by-product.
Kerogen (from Greek for wax + -gen, that which produces) is a mixture of organic chemical compounds that make up a portion of the organic matter in sedimentary rocks. It is insoluble in normal organic solvents because of a huge molecular weight. The soluble portion is known as bitumen. When heated to the right temperatures in the Earth’s crust, (oil window ca. 60–160 °C, gas window ca. 150–200 °C, both depending on how quickly the source rock is heated) some types of kerogen release crude oil or natural gas, collectively known as hydrocarbons (fossil fuels). When such kerogens are present in high concentration in rocks such as shale they form possible source rocks. Shales rich in kerogens that have not been heated to a warmer temperature to release their hydrocarbons will eventually form oil shale deposits. (The name “kerogen” was introduced by the Scottish organic chemist Alexander Crum Brown in 1906.)
What above tells us is that the organic matter in shales is in the form of very large molecular weight polymers. These can be deconstructed at high temperature in retorts, and then the quality of the remaining ash (or spent shale) can be investigated and the potential damage to the environment assessed. An alternative could be to create a fire underground and collect above ground the released oil or gas created by breaking up the kerogen polymer. In such case the damage from the ash cannot be assessed without knowing the underground conditions and where the underground waters will take the released heavy metals. The Shale Gas operations now in the United States are underground production sites explained as examples of Hydro-Fracking which sounds incoherent when we do not know the operating temperatures which are needed to break chemical bonds of that polymer. Neither the new American production companies nor the EU Shale Gas production interests give us such technology details as they did not even obtain patents that would have required transparency.
This present posting has an added purpose.
I learned that June 10-13, 2013, the Estonian users of shale-for-energy intend a Shales Symposium in Tallinn as a follow up to the 2006 Symposium that was held in Ammann, Jordan.
The Symposium in Tallinn will be followed by a Field Trip to Estonian oil shale processing industry – an extraordinary opportunity to visit the most important sites of Estonian oil shale industry, including the new, recently completed Enefit280 Oil Plant.
I would like to hope that the European Commission send some inquisitive people to that symposium in order to learn about the side-effects or the environmentally harming “externalities” that could cause harm to the underground aquifers.
Further, as mentioned at the beginning, another European location were there was experience with Oil Shale Retorting is Puertollano, in the Ciudad Real region of Spain. With information from these sites the EU could be in a better position to judge the issues involved.
I was personally involved with the Purtollano plant of the Empressa Nacional de Pisara Bituminosa Calvo Sotelo in 1959. That plant was producing lubricants or viscous petroleum product alternatives in huge retorts and leaving behind mountains of spent shale as well. Looking at the remains of those mountains – in Puertollano and in Narva, could help the decision making process at the EU.
We realize the importance of the energy independence goal – but as it can be reached in various ways, it is important to start out with open eyes.
The Hooshang Amirahmadi for President of Iran campaign is now building for the future within the confines of the Iranian Constitution. Interesting – former President Rafsanjani openly expressed criticism of the regime – clerics and Ahmadi-Nejad. Could change happen this year?
Israel Hayom wrote about a Qatari prince to visit Israeli Jerusalem and sign an agreement on joint high-tech development with a Qatari investment of Hundreds of millions of Dollars in this joint cooperation.
We found this information on-line 0n page 3 – left lower corner – of the Hebrew edition of the Right-Wing Israel Hayom newspaper. We got directed to it by the English language APN News Nosh of April 28, 2013 which is a Left-Wing media. So, we give it some credibility.
If the following turns out to be a correct description of Qatar readiness to deal with Israel – this is a serious development that can lead to the Arab Gulf States recognition of Israel de-Jure and not just de-Facto.
Qatari prince likely to visit Israel?
The representative of the royal family will arrive to launch the Israeli-Palestinian Center for Business Arbitration in Jerusalem, said Gen. (res.) Oren Shahor, head of Israel Chamber of Commerce. “Qatar is interested in investing hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the hi-tech field and sees Israel as a strategic source for gaining knowledge and technology.”
Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Hampton Synagogue says that Iran’s ambitions have the potential of bringing the Gulf States and Israel together. Bahrain cooperates with the Israeli Mossad and has outlawed Hezbollah declaring it a terrorist organization..
We post the following because we were present in New York City at the first dinner Rabbi Marc Schneier hosted the Bahraini Ambassador to the UN. That was at the time an extension of Rabbi Schneier’s outreach to Muslims in the US – when he organized joint dinners between Jewish and Muslim communities in various places in the US. Eventually common interests will lead the way to the de-Jure acceptance of Israel as well.
Several Boston hospitals have been thrust into the spotlight with recent events in that city, and along with them so too have the medical staffs. Everyone wants to know how they have so successfully responded to a crisis of such proportions. The answer to some extent is this: Israel.
Aish.com recently interviewed Dr. Alasdair Conn, Chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General. He described how Israeli doctors played a prime role in the successful medical response following last week’s terror attack.
Collaboration began after 9/11 when staff at Massachusetts General realized they wouldn’t be prepared for an attack of that magnitude closer to home.
“We could manage to treat patients from a multiple car crash – with three or four or five patients – pretty well,” recalls Dr. Alasdair Conn, Chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine, “but what would happen if we had many more patients, simultaneously and with very little warning?”
Dr. Conn and his colleagues looked to Israel for advice, and turned to Dr. Pinchas Halpern, Chief of the Emergency Department at Tel Aviv Medical Center. A world-renowned expert on trauma care, Dr. Halpern had helped make Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center one of the world’s leaders in emergency medicine.
Halpern came over in 2005, when Israel was experiencing a wave of terror attacks. For the doctors at Massachusetts General, the visit would prove tremendously important 8 years later. “To this day I remember a comment,” Dr. Conn recalls. “One of the Israelis said that here in the United States we have a terrorist event every few years, but ‘unfortunately, in Israel,’ he said, ‘we have a situation where a bomb is put on a bus once every three weeks. We have no notice, and we get 50 or 60 or 70 casualties with no warning.’”
Logistics was a focal point of the training process. Israeli doctors taught their American colleagues lessons they’d learned in organizing responses to large-scale disasters. “Only a small part of dealing with such an event is medical, much of it is logistical,” Tel Aviv’s Dr. Halpern explained.
He and his colleagues developed a unique triage system, moving casualties indoors as soon as possible and streamlining processes to make it more rapid. “We did away with a lot of the structure that was in the textbook that was never really tested,” Dr. Halpern said. They developed protocols like doing extra CT scanning to detect small pieces of shrapnel from bombs designed to cause maximum damage.
Israeli trauma doctors had learned to alter their lab testing procedures, to streamline the way they identified victims after terror attacks, and to not discharge blast victims right away, because often their injuries don’t show symptoms until later. Mass. General’s Dr. Paul Biddinger noted that “we improved our plans for triage, site security, reassessment and inter-specialty coordination” after consulting with the Israelis.
Another lesson the Israelis learned was to call up large numbers of staff as soon as the hospital hears of a terrorist attacks in case they are needed. This proved particularly beneficial last week.
“As soon as we heard about the blasts we didn’t let any anesthesiologists or general or trauma surgeons or pediatricians leave the hospital,” said ER head Dr. Alasdair Conn. “We learned that from the Israelis. I remember walking through the emergency department two hours after the bomb victims arrived. Many of the acute patients had already been moved, and it looked like there were more staff than patients in the ER. If there had been a third or a fourth bomb that day – we could have managed.”
Over 30 blast victims arrived at the hospital following last Monday’s attack. Each victim had their own dedicated team attending to them.
“We’re not smarter than other doctors,” Dr. Halpern told Aish.com. “But we have two things going for us. One, unfortunately, is the high level of terrorism Israel faces. The other factor is Israel’s advanced medical system. In general, countries with lots of terrorism have a lower level of academic research and writing; countries with sophisticated medical systems have lower levels of terrorism. Israel combines both.”
Noting that Israelis had been first on the scene at disasters across the globe, Dr. Halpern said, “We can help, so we feel we have a moral obligation. We respond very quickly and efficiently. We think out of the box, not dogmatically, and we are often first on the scene… There’s a very strong sense to apply the skills we’ve gained morally. I choose to live in Israel in the face of much adversity, and I believe it is incumbent upon us as Jews and Israelis to help whomever we can.”
“When we were preparing for mass casualties we realized the Israelis had the expertise in this type of situation,” Dr. Conn said, “and we turned to them. This week it really paid off.”