Photo: Gabi Menashe
Palestinian sewage affects us too
Photo: Gabi Menashe

Drinking from their toilets

Is it wise to refuse talks with Hamas if the price is typhoid and cholera?

There was a large demonstration last month in Tehran, Iran. For some reason, the media, and not only the Israeli press, chose to ignore the bus drivers strike broken by the right-wing theocracy.


A British organization found that more than 1,000 drivers were arrested.


There's a lesson in this small story: Even the media is partner to attempts to present the Iranian regime as radical Islamist, anti-Western, anti-Israel bloc. And so it does not report on the struggle of a professional trade union.


In any event, we consider the word "strike" to be a dirty word, and a bus drivers' strike is the dirtiest word of all. 


This is also related to Hamas. Suddenly, after the carnival of pluralism that enveloped us during the Gaza pullout, now we've got ideological unity: We don't talk to Hamas.


Olmert, Netanyahu and Peretz agree: Hamas is a terrorist organization. The fact that the group won power won't move us from our current position. We don't talk with terrorists who want to kill us.


Very good, absolutely correct, very patriotic.


But what should we do with the pooh?


Swimming with sewage


It's a geographic issue. When a Palestinian goes to the bathroom in Gaza, there is a good chance the sewage will grace swimmers off the coast of Ashkelon and Ashdod. There's about 10 million cubic meters of it each year. This happens because currents along the eastern Mediterranean run south-to-north.


In the West Bank – 40 million cubic meters – the chances of Israel encountering Palestinian waste are even better, and the potential consequences even more serious.


When a woman in Nablus relieves herself it seeps underground – into the channels that supply our drinking water.


This is also a matter of geography: Nablus is higher than the Alexander Creek. And so the laws of gravity will ensure that what comes out of Nablus is sure to reach us.


Treating the problem


Foreign governments have provided millions of dollars in aid for the Palestinians to build sewage treatment plants. Now that the Palestinian government is in financial crisis – that will only get worse in the near future if Israel steals the tax money it collects on behalf of the Palestinians – the sewage treatment plant will not be built, and the money will go to pay the salaries of Palestinian "police" officers.


Israel has a supreme interest in treating Palestinian sewage before it reaches our water sources. Water quality is a supreme matter of health. But what can we do if our neighbors up on top of the mountain relieve themselves all over us?


We can go on playing the argument game, as it relates to sewage just as it relates to terrorism. Or we can try to talk.


Israeli interest


It is in Israel's interest – it seems appropriate to put the issue in its proper place – to make sure the treatment plants get built, even if we have to pay for them ourselves. Whereas we've got money, they've got malaria.


Political arguments – whether they recognize Israel or stop terror attacks – will not stop the flow of sewage.


Squaring the circle will require a creative solution. We can continue refusing to talk to Hamas about politics. We need not talk about final status agreements, interim agreements, the war on terror.


But it would be stupid to refuse talks about sewage. The appropriate and wise thing to do, before our declaration that "We're not talking to Hamas" becomes holier than God Himself, would be to talk to Hamas.


This dialogue can also focus on something else. Palestinian tax money that we collect on their behalf should be used for a joint Israel-Hamas waste management project.


Because from our perspective, a Hamas member who builds such a plant is just like that Iranian bus driver – he is undermining the anti-Israeli regime.


If not, we can stick to being right, and suffer the consequences of malaria and cholera.


פרסום ראשון: 02.16.06, 13:12
 new comment
This will delete your current comment