Earth Summit a Positive Experience for Israel, Chief of Delegation Says

Dr. Uri Marinov, head of Israel’s delegation to the Earth Summit that wound up here Sunday, said it was “not at all a bad conference for Israel from a political point of view.”

Marinov, director general of Israel’s Ministry of the Environment, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that except for an anti-Israel speech by the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization and some “lip service” from a few other countries, there were no problems for Israel at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development that convened here June 3-14.

“It was a relatively easygoing or good conference for Israel,” he said. “There were no political outbursts and no anti-Israel resolutions.”

Eased by the atmosphere, which did not include the traditional anti-Israel positions taken by so many international conferences, Marinov pointed out particularly “Agenda 21,” the most important document to come out of the conference, where references to lands of occupation were removed beforehand.

Such language was retained in the less important Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, because the United States did not want discussion on this document opened up at the meeting, and Israel agreed.

Israel also signed the Convention on Climate Change, after long and difficult negotations. This accord establishes general principles on reduction of toxic gases emissions.

’10 GREEN COMMANDMENTS’

Marinov’s political position was clearly a lesser one than that of other countries, which were represented by presidents, prime ministers and kings.

He explained that the approaching Israeli elections had kept Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and government ministers from participating at this time. He also said the timing of the conference’s concluding summit on Friday and Saturday interfered with Sabbath observance.

But Marinov said the only disadvantage Israel experienced by not sending its political leaders was an inability to make a statement during the summit phase of the conference.

While only heads of state were allowed to speak during the concluding weekend, Marinov made Israel’s presentation on the opening day.

His message included “10 Green Commandments” for regulating people’s relationship with the environment.

They began, “We must respect the environment. We are duty-bound to cherish all the creatures in the world, all the plants that graces its surface, all the waters that divide it, all the wealth that lies beneath it, and the air that drifts above.

“We must alter our behavior, as individuals and as nations, in order to preserve the Earth in all its glory.

“We must integrate environmental considerations into all decision-making, and we must promote sustainable development.”

Marinov was introduced at the conference by Dr. Celso Lafer, Brazil’s new foreign minister, who is Jewish.

In addition to Lafer, two other Brazilian government officials were prominent at the Earth Summit: Congressman Fabio Feldmann and Education Minister and Secretary for the Environment Jose Goldemberg.

Both men are members of Brazil’s Jewish community of some 140,000 people, which comprises 0.1 percent of the country’s population.

ISRAEL CHALLENGED ON WATER USE

Israel signed both the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biodiversity, which it had held out from endorsing until last Thursday night, taking its cue from the United States, which refused to sign the document.

Israel had individually disagreed with an item of the document of the need to grant free access to water resources to “oppressed people.”

Palestinian delegates in Rio blamed Israel for taking 80 percent of Gaza Strip and West Bank water reserves. Responding, Marinov produced a document showing that Israel used less water last year than it did before the Six-Day War.

The Israeli position was also strongly criticized by delegates of Arab and Islamic countries. Some of them, like Qatar’s representatives, blamed Israel for damaging the environment in the territories.

But overall, Marinov was pleased with the results and atmosphere. He said the mere fact that more than 100 heads of state came together to discuss environmental issues is a major accomplishment.

“It brought the environment to the center, and this is unbelievably important,” he said.

Besides the Israeli delegation headed by Marinov, there was almost no Jewish presence at Riocentro, the site of the conference, though a few non-governmental Jewish organizations were represented.

Roaming the halls was Warren Eisenberg, director of the International Council of B’nai B’rith, accompanied by a Brazilian member of the organization.

No other major or minor American Jewish organizations or religious groups were officially present at the NGO part of the conference, which was held in Flamingo Park.

There a booth set up by the PLO was proudly selling everything from baby bibs to potholders stamped, “I love Palestine” and “Jerusalem — West Bank.”

RABBIS FROM U.S., ISRAEL, HOLLAND

Several Jews participated as individuals at a special closed meeting of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival.

Susannah Heschel, an American Jewish feminist writer and professor, represented Judaism on a panel of religious leaders that included the Dalai Lama, who sang “Hava Nagila” and joined rabbis in prayer for “a new world of peace.”

Other Jewish delegates included Rabbi Henry Sobel of Congregacao Israelita Paulista in Sao Paulo, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Congregation Kol Haneshama in Jerusalem; Rabbi Marshall Meyer of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York; and Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp from the Liberal Synagogues of The Hague and Amsterdam.

The only organized Jewish group participation took place during an interreligious vigil from June 4 until the morning of June 5, when Rabbis Nilton Bonder of Congregacao Judaica do Brasil in Rio and Zalman Schachter of Philadelphia led some 300 members of Rio’s Jewish community in prayers throughout the night.

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