Defending Israel’s borders from ‘climate refugees´ (JERUSALEM POST) By SHARON UDASIN 05/15/12)
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In order to combat increased waves of illegal migration that will
likely accompany climate change, Israel must secure its borders
through impassable barriers, including “sea fences” along the
Mediterranean and Red Sea, experts have concluded.
“The lack of water, warming and sea level rise, even if it will occur
on a different schedule, will bring migration movements from all
impoverished regions to every place where it is possible to escape
this,” wrote a team of academics, led by Prof. Arnon Soffer and Dr.
Anton Berkovsky of the University of Haifa’s Geography Department.
The team’s conclusions appeared in just one “geo-strategy” chapter in
a nearly 200-page report of recommendations toward adapting to
climate change, submitted collectively by about 100 experts at the
Israel Climate Change Knowledge Center to Environmental Protection
Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday. Established in 2011 by the ministry,
the Israel Climate Change Knowledge Center aims to gather scientific
knowledge on seven different issues: regional climatic forecasting,
impacts of climate change on the water sector, urban planning and
building, public health, biodiversity, economy and regional geo-
strategic issues, according to the ministry.
After receiving analysis by expert teams, who had already submitted a
preliminary report in December, the ministry would then intend to
incorporate the information into its policy documents, in order to
formulate a national plan toward adapting to climate change.
Among its suggestions for how to handle the geo-strategic
implications of climate change, the team led by Soffer called for a
complete enclosure of Israel from all directions, including
establishing sea fences along the Mediterranean and Red seas. In
addition, the experts said that additional law enforcement will be
required to deal with the ramifications of securing the Egyptian and
Jordanian borders, as economic crisis might ensue for Negev Beduins
who trade across these turfs. While securing Israel from all sides,
however, the authorities must ensure for the safe passage of animals
“The migration wave is not a problem for the future. It is today, it
is going on now,” Soffer told The Jerusalem Post on Monday
evening. “It will just increase from day to day.”
Soffer explained that the most troublesome spot in terms of migration
to Israel is the Nile basin area, where a mixture of drastic climate
changes and demographic explosions are pushing people to move
northward. Meanwhile, they recognize that “Europe is completely under
siege by the navies,” so they cannot move in that direction.
“In India they shoot, in Nepal they shoot, in Japan they shoot,”
Soffer said, noting that in Israel, the refugees know they can find
Due to climate change, between the 1970s and the 1990s alone, the
Nile basin fell from 84 billion cubic meters to 51 billion cubic
meters, and while its waters returned to normalcy for the decade that
followed, since 2000 catastrophe has ensued, according to Soffer.
Likewise, in the past decade, about 800 lakes have dried up
completely in Africa, including Chad’s largest one – a phenomenon
that has led to “terrible tragedies," he explained.
“Millions perished along the Sahel,” he said, referring to a semiarid
zone that stretches from Senegal to Eritrea, bordered by the Sahara
on the north and a savannah on the south.
“It’s the deterioration of Africa,” he added.
Also attempting to penetrate Israel’s borders due to intense climate
change will be Jordanians, Palestinians and perhaps some Syrians,
according to Soffer.
“I can see how the desert will penetrate slowly to Kiryat Gat, Gaza
and Hebron – everywhere,” he said. “If you accept what the scientists
are saying then there will be no question that people will be forced
to leave the Negev.”
Within Israel proper, many Beduin communities have moved en masse out
of the Negev and to the country’s center, a shift that many people
along Israel’s borders might also replicate as their climates become
unbearable, Soffer explained.
“Why are they are coming to the North? Either because of population
explosion or because of water loss,” he said. “This is a microcosm of
what is going on between the border of the Mediterranean climate and
the semiarid zone.”
In Syria, there is a direct correlation between the areas where the
rebellions began and places were there is shortage of water, Soffer
“I am one that fights for building fences all around Israeli
borders,” he said. “We are an island – we don’t belong to this
region, and we have to defend Israel from waves of migration from
Egypt from Jordan and maybe from Syria. If we want to keep Israel a
Jewish State, we will have to defend ourselves from what I
call ‘climate refugees,’ exactly as Europe is doing now.”
As Israel continues to increase its desalinated water output,
however, Soffer stressed the importance of providing the Palestinians
and the Jordanians with sources of water, noting that “maybe this
will bring peace.”
While the fences around Israel are necessary, according to Soffer, so
too are corridors to allow the free passage of animals. Such
passages, he said could be guarded by groups of soldiers for days at
a time to allow the animals, such as snakes, to cross both ways.
Soffer said he was not worried about the global response to
physically securing Israel’s borders, and stressed that Europe has
been making entrance to immigrants extremely stringent for quite some
“I have to satisfy the Israeli citizens, to be human as much as I
can,” he said. “Whatever I do, we will not be as cruel as Europe.
They have huge navies, they sink boats, they send them back.”
The geo-strategy section looked at many other issues aside from
securing Israel’s borders, such as strengthening the country’s
defense system as well as its preparedness for dealing with fires,
which will undoubtedly decrease with reduced rainfall. Cooperation
between relevant ministries will be essential, in terms of, for
example, maintaining agricultural land or preventing the spread of
dehydration and contagious diseases. Energy explorations need to
continue, as well as testing the possibility of building nuclear
power plants, as well as all of the security measures that are
necessary for all energy development, according to the chapter.
Meanwhile, the geo-strategic chapter also suggests increasing
tunneling and the use of underground spaces, which could provide a
solution to the expansion of human land exploitation. Israel also
must make sure it is forming bilateral agreements on climate change
with other nations, and it also should be exploring the potential
benefits – and not just the negatives – of climate change, such as
the creation of a sailing route through the Arctic Ocean.
Outside the geo-strategy chapter, other expert teams call for
instituting a requirement that buildings meet green standards when
their owners purchase insurance policies, as well as implanting an
energy rating system for buildings during their sale.
Other teams called for the increased use of recycled gray water,
while still others recommended preparing treatment regimens for
victims of future cold and heat waves. Experts wrote of increased
temperatures, decreased precipitation, southern desertification and
“Climate change is already here and requires comprehensive
preparations,” Erdan said, upon receiving the report. “These changes
have social, economic, security and ecological implications that
require changes in behavioral patterns of individuals, industry and
the state, in order to minimize the potential damage.”
Naor Yerushalmi, CEO of the Life and Environment umbrella group for
Israel´s green organizations, urged the government to adopt the
report´s recommendations and create a comprehensive work plan as soon
as possible. However, he warned that "seclusion behind fences cannot
be a solution," and that it is instead important to forge
partnerships with neighboring countries to handle crises.
"Early preparation can minimize expected damage, and even take
advantage of opportunities that are created as a result, especially
in the need for environmental technologies across the world,"
Yerushalmi said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/15/12)
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