Around a week ago, the Israeli government announced that 10% of its renewable energy quota would be going to the West Bank. This means that literally millions (some have put the estimate at $660 million) will be heading to the territories to encourage solar, wind and biofuel energy development.
Whilst this move has been welcomed by green activists in principle, there have been concerns over the fact that solar fields will be built in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. The continuing growth of the Jewish settlements across the West Bank is one of the most widely contested issues in the region and is considered to be a major barrier to Israel and Palestine reaching a peace deal. So does green progress outweigh these political downfalls?
In the past, Israeli settlements have struggled to secure approval for renewable energy projects and were not assigned a quota of the renewable projects of the Israeli state. This all changed around a week ago when 10 percent of the allocation for renewable energy projects were shifted to the West Bankand the Israeli government placed a cap on settlement projects of 46 megawatts for large solar fields, 80 megawatts for wind power and 21 megawatts for biofuels. Thirty megawatts of the national 300 megawatt allocation has been given to the settlements.
According to estimates by the Jerusalem Post, if all the quota in renewable energy in the West Bank settlements are used it would add up to an investment of around $660million. The policy shift also means that various roof-top solar panel projects in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement were given the all clear.
You could argue that green energy projects need to be celebrated where ever they are but I personally find it hard to celebrate a policy which appears to be further jeopardizing the chances of peace between Israel and Palestine.
Although all Israelis (Arabs and Jews) are theoretically allowed to make use of the government quotas, only Israeli settlers have Israeli citizenship in the West Bank and so Palestinians can’t make use of the renewable energy quotas allocation. What’s more, Palestinian themselves struggle to secure permission from Israel to build their own renewable projects. As Hanna Siniora, co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, told the Jerusalem Post:
“Palestinians want to build renewable energy, but most of the land at the moment is under the administration of Israel’s defense ministry, Area C. We are not allowed to create projects in Area C. Renewable energy is as important to Palestinians as it is to Israelis, so maybe they should be given an equal chance to do this.”
:: Image via Jurvetson/flickr of a solar field in the Negev Desert.