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05TELAVIV2506 2005-04-21 08:45:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
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1. (C) Summary: Minister of Environment Shalom Simhon and
Finnish Embassy Counselor Matti Tulonen expressed their
support for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on environmental
issues in meetings with NEA Senior S&T Advisor Charles
Lawson. The GOI Ministry of Environment is proposing that
the Israeli-Palestinian Environmental Experts Committee (EEC)
meet every six months, with regular working groups on Gaza
and the West Bank meeting monthly and ad hoc groups meeting
on special projects and issues as needed. The Finnish
diplomat said that his government is willing to support
environmental projects agreed to within the EEC. End summary.

2. (C) NEA Senior S&T Advisor met with GOI Minister of
Environment Shalom Simhon April 5 to discuss
Israeli-Palestinian Environmental Cooperation and other
topics. (Septels report on the Minister's comments on renewed
Japanese interest in Multilateral Peace Process environmental
activities and Israeli garbage dump on the West Bank).
Simhon was accompanied by Senior Deputy Director General for
Policy and Planning Valerie Brachya and International
Relations Division Director Ori Livne. Lawson was
accompanied by ESTH Officer and an interpreter. (Note:
Simhon does not speak English. End note).

3. (C) Noting his familiarity with water issues as a former
agriculture minister, Simhon expressed his hopes for future
progress on water negotiations between Israel and its
neighbors and support from the international community on
projects to relieve water shortages in the region. He voiced
concern about the lack of sewage treatment facilities in
Palestinian areas and the effect on Israeli efforts towards
rehabilitation of rivers and streams and control of
mosquitoes. Lawson briefed Simhon on progress on the
USAID-sponsored Hebron Waste Water Treatment Plant.

4. (C) Simhon expressed the willingness of his ministry to
work with Palestinian counterparts, whether directly or
through other parties, to strengthen environmental
cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. He said Israel
was ready to support the PA in its efforts to strengthen
environment regulation. Simhon noted his personal support
towards the meeting of the Environmental Experts Committee
(EEC) meeting scheduled for May 2, and expressed his hope
that the U.S. would continue to work on sewage treatment
projects in the Palestinian territories and that other donors
would support specific projects.

5. (C) Outside of the meeting with Minister Simhon, Livne
told Lawson that she was communicating with Ahmed Abu Thaher,
Director General for Projects and International Relations of
the PA's Environmental Quality Authority, regarding
preparations for the May 2 EEC meeting. Without elaborating,
Livne commented that the Ministry of Environment was having
trouble within the GOI as it prepared for the EEC meeting.
She said she was proposing to Abu Thaher that the EEC meet
every six months, with regular committees on West Bank and
Gaza issues meeting monthly and ad hoc groups on special
projects and issues meeting as necessary.

6. (C) Lawson and ESTH Officer spoke briefly with MOE
Director General Miki Haran briefly following the meeting
with the minister. Haran said she hoped that Simhon would be
able to make a visit to the U.S. in the near future for
targeted discussions and site visits to observe American
experience and expertise relevant to some of Israel's key
environmental challenges, including hazardous waste and
asbestos cleanups, rivers and streams rehabilitation, and
thermal treatment of wastes.

7. (C) Lawson met with Embassy of Finland Counselor Matti
Tulonen April 8. Tulonen had helped arrange the
Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Helsinki (reftel) that led to
the revival of the EEC. It was striking to him that such
meetings had to be "secret." Lawson explained that meetings
on environmental issues had taken place openly in the region
before the Intifada and some multilateral activities were
already returning to the region. Tulonen said that worldwide
Finland was concentrating its development assistance on 12
countries or areas, including the Palestinian Authority, and
had already provided 25 million Euros for Palestinian

8. (C) Tulonen said that Finland was ready to support
environmental projects agreed to by the EEC. He welcomed
communication and coordination with U.S. counterparts.
Noting that the development experts working under the
supervision of his embassy were stationed in Ramallah, he
suggested that he arrange a meeting in May to include
himself, those officials, ESTH Officer, USAID, and officers
of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. He offered to
arrange such a meeting in either Ramallah or Jerusalem. ESTH
Officer said he would pass on Tulonen's offer to USAID and
ConGen colleagues.

9. (C) Comment: The Finnish offer to provide tangible
assistance in support of EEC projects is particularly welcome
as preparations for the May 2 EEC meeting move forward. We
will be in touch with Tulonen following the May 2 meeting to
coordinate our efforts. End comment.

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