Palestinian Pretext

Disbelief in the existence of human-influenced climate change is behind three Republican senators' legislative proposal to block funding of United Nations programs to address that environmental challenge.

Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma, David Vitter of Louisiana, and John Barrasso of Wyoming are using Palestinian participation in the UN course of action as a pretext to quash our fiscal contribution. The senators cite a law banning our government from financing any UN agency that has a member we do not recognize as a sovereign state--in this case Palestine.

President Obama's administration, which has pledged $3 billion over four years to the UN climate effort, says the program is a product of a treaty, rather than an actual official agency. Hence, the senators' legal justification for their bill does not apply.

That the senators would attempt to use Palestine as an excuse for barring our contribution to a global climate change campaign shows how detached they are from reality.

Climate change is a phenomenon in which all countries in varying degrees ultimately impact each other. Global problems thus demand global solutions which is why longtime adversaries may be forced into begrudging cooperation to avert mutual disaster. And that is what has started to happen with the Israelis and the Palestinians, even though the latter would be disqualified from our assistance by the three senators.

Water availability in the arid Middle East is a key component to combatting climate change. Without at least a minimal supply, the landscape is susceptible to prolonged drought, which deprives the landscape of carbon-absorbing vegetation.

Since 2001, there has been a modest sharing of water resources between Israelis and their Arab neighbors. Despite hostilities, 11 Palestine communities, nine Israeli and eight Jordanian communities are currently participating in the program. Water is apportioned from the Jordan River, Dead Sea, and across-the-border aquifers and streams.

Jews and Arabs are also collaborating on a solar energy project to pump water from an underground aquifer on the West Bank. Joint ventures in desalinization plants are on the drawing boards to alleviate water shortages from a region that is projected to be one of the hardest hit by global warming.

Conservation techniques are being shared, and Israeli agriculture's innovative water-saving drip irrigation methodology has been adopted by many Arab farmers.

The need for mutual cooperation in coping with climate change has not resulted in a full-scale Arab-Israeli détente, but it has laid the groundwork.

In that vein, sea level rise lapping up on the shores of the Mediterranean dictates future cooperation between coastal enemies as well as allies.

Hopefully, the true nature and scope of climate change will dawn on these senators and those who share their parochial views. With their revelation would come a recognition that climate change can just as easily be a catalyst for co-existence as conflict.