Geneva Initiative Annexes
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GI teams hold water dialogue in Maryland

18-21/08/08: Israeli and Palestinian GI teams make significant progress on the difficult issue of water distribution
Date: 21.08.08

As Israeli and Palestinian governments struggle with the “track I” peace negotiations, Geneva Initiative delegates to a conference in Maryland made great strides on August 18th-21st in a “track II” dialog on a central issue of contention between Israelis and Palestinian: how water should be allocated fairly and with cooperation to face drought and other environmental problems.

“I’ve never felt we’ve been this close to a working agreement,” eminent Israeli engineer Hillel Shuvall exulted. Fadia Daibes-Murad, a Palestinian engineer and advisor to the Palestinian Water Authority agreed, “We are so much closer together than in any time before.”

Palestinian and Israeli engineers and representatives with close ties to the Israeli government and Palestinian National Authority met for three days of intense discussions on the difficult water issues. The water dialog was organized by Geneva Initiative in cooperation with "Annapolis Friends Peace and Justice Center" after informal discussions outside the Bush Administration’s November 2007 Annapolis Conference.

The GI draft water agreement will be offered to official government negotiators as a possible framework for water cooperation in the “final status agreement” that would bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians. GI water experts soon will complete their draft with an assessment of recent water data, leaving some practical decisions for the governments’ determination.

Shaul Arlosoroff, a director of the Israeli national water company who participated in the dialog, stated that “not much more is needed to submit [the draft] to the final negotiating team.” Palestinian Peace Coalition-GI Director General Nidal Foqaha added, “The [draft] agreement is beyond our expectations.”

Participants in the water dialog were as follows:

Palestinian representatives:
Jamal Zakout, senior advisor to the Palestinian Prime Minister;
Dr. Abedel Rahman Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group;
Dr. Fadia Daibes-Murad, advisor to the Palestinian Water Authority;
Dr. Samih Abid, former Palestinian Minister of Public Works; and
Nidal Foqaha, executive director of the Geneva Initiative (Palestinian organization).

Israeli representatives:
Dr. Saul Arlosoroff, former acting water commissioner and com. chair of Mekorot;
Dr. Hillel Shuvall, former Chief Environmental Health Engineer of Israel;
Shaul Arieli, former head of the Peace Administration in the Barak government;
Gadi Baltiansky, former Press Secretary in the Barak government and executive director of
the Geneva Initiative (Israeli organization); and
Yuval Benziman, Director of Research and Policy Planning for Geneva Initiative.

Advisors, mediators, dialog organizers:
John McDonald, retired U.S. Ambassador to U.N. conferences, including water issues;
John Bernal, retired U.S. engineer-commissioner for U.S./Mexico water cooperation;
Franklin Fisher, MIT professor of economics and chair of Middle East Water Project;
Gabriel Eckstein, professor of international law, specializing in water rights;
Doug Caroom, American attorney, specializing in water litigation and interstate compacts;
Barbara Thomas, retired communications specialist for World Bank and Annapolis Peace & Justice Center clerk; and
Phil Caroom, state trial judge and Annapolis Peace & Justice Center coordinator.