Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cross border planning coordination in the Middle East

I just returned from a two-day annual meeting of the Israel Geography Association. I was asked to chair a session concerning regional planning issues.

An interesting paper was presented by an ex-representative of the Defense Department on the National Planning Board. The paper was concerned with coordination of planning actions on both sides of the "green line", the pre-1967 boundary between Israel and what is today the Palestinian Authority. Parts of the lands beyond the green line are controlled by the Israeli Military and managed by the Civilian Authority. Until recently, the author of the paper was the representative of the Defense Department on the planning board of the civilian authority as well.

I was amazed to hear that there is absolutely no coordination of land use plans for roads, trains, water supply, open spaces, etc. I would have thought that such coordination would be of interest to authorities on both sides of the green line. We live in a very small area with very high density of population. Furthermore, the ecological systems do not recognize borders.

At the same time there is a great deal of coordination across the border between Israel and Jordan. Yesterday on the news I heard of a new system of controlling rat infestation in open fields by means of small white owls. I understand that Muslims are averse to owls. There was much discussion between the agriculture ministries in the two countries before the system was successfully implemented.

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