Environmental issues cross geographic and man-made political boundaries. Shared environmental problems and situations of interdependence may exacerbate conflicts between communities, but they can also offer opportunities for cooperation. This article discusses the capacity of non-governmental organizations to use environmental issues as a platform for promoting peace in the region, especially between Israelis and Palestinians. It focuses on three organizations that see Israeli-Palestinian cooperation as a central pillar of their activities: EcoPeace Middle East, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and Comet Middle East. The article examines the variety of activities these organizations engage in: promoting and encouraging cooperation between political entities, education, facilitating meetings between individuals and groups on both sides, addressing energy and water-related problems (mainly sewage treatment and river pollution), and more. The notable achievements of the three organizations are also highlighted, as well as the considerable difficulties they face. This review of their activities suggests some conclusions and recommendations for organizations and for individuals interested in environmental protection and the future of relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
This paper is the second in a series of a joint project between the Mitvim Institute and the Davis Institute for International Relations.