An edited version of Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times on October 26
When Secretary of State John Kerry began his high-energy effort to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace, I argued that it was the last train for a two-state solution. If it didn’t work, it would mean that the top-down, diplomatically constructed two-state concept was over as a way out of that conflict. For Israelis and Palestinians, the next train would be the one coming at them.
Well, now arriving on Track 1….
That train first appeared in the Gaza war and could soon be rounding the bend in the West Bank. Just last week an East Jerusalem Palestinian killed a 3-month-old Israeli baby and wounded seven others when he deliberately rammed his car into a light-rail station.
Can a bigger collision be averted? Not by Washington. It can only come from Israelis and Palestinians acting on their own, directly with one another, with real imagination, to convert what is now an “unhealthy interdependency” into a “healthy interdependence….”
Last week, I had a visit from EcoPeace Middle East, led by Munqeth Mehyar, a Jordanian architect; Gidon Bromberg, an Israeli environmental lawyer; and Nader al-Khateeb, a Palestinian water expert. Yes, they travel together.
They came to Washington to warn of the water crisis in Gaza. With little electricity to desalinate water or pump in chlorine – and Gazans having vastly overexploited their only aquifer – seawater is now seeping in so badly that freshwater is in short supply. Waste management has also collapsed, so untreated waste is being dumped into the Mediterranean, where it moves north with the current, threatening drinking water produced by Israel’s desalination plant in Ashkelon. It is all one ecosystem. Everyone is connected.
Up north, though, EcoPeace helped to inspire – through education, research and advocacy – Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian mayors to rehabilitate the Jordan River, which they had all turned into an open sewer. Since 1994, Jordan has stored water in the winter from its Yarmouk River in Israel’s Sea of Galilee, and then Israel gives it back to Jordan in the summer – like a water bank. It shows how “prior enemies can create positive interdependencies once they start trusting each other,” said Bromberg.
And that is the point. The only source of lasting security is not walls, rockets, U.N. votes or European demonstrations. It’s relationships of trust between neighbors that create healthy interdependencies – ecological and political. They are the hardest things to build, but also the hardest things to break once in place.