Israel Environment Bulletin Summer 1992-5752, Vol. 15, No. 3
FROM THE INCOMING DIRECTOR GENERAL, DR. ISRAEL PELEG
Dr. Israel Peleg served as Consul General of Israel for the mid-
Atlantic states until his recent appointment as director general of
the Ministry of the Environment. Previously, he served as director
of the Government Press Office from 1984 to 1987 and as a member of
the Board of Governors of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Dr.
Peleg holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. from the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem in Mass Communication and a B.A. in Political Science.
Shortly following his appointment, Dr. Peleg provided the following
interview to the Israel Environment Bulletin:
Shoshana Gabbay: Your entrance into Israel's Ministry of the
Environment coincides with the advent of a new era of environmental
concern, an era recently launched at the Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro. At this time, what are your hopes and expectations from
Dr. Israel Peleg: My initial weeks in the Ministry of the
Environment have been dedicated to careful study of the
environmental issues facing Israel, nationally, regionally and
globally. While there is much that I still have to learn, I am
fortunate to be surrounded by an excellent and dedicated staff of
professionals, for whom environmental work constitutes a mission,
not merely a vocation. In just a few years, this young ministry
has managed to effect major changes in environmental quality in
this country. Yet much more needs to be done.
I believe that the appointment of Ms. Ora Namir as Israel's new
Minister of the Environment will make a real difference in the way
our government and our people relate to the environment. It is no
secret that successive governments have been largely apathetic to
environmental issues, but I am convinced that the energy and hard
work which have characterised Minister Namir in all her past
endeavors, will make a real difference. Our challenge today is to
further upgrade the environment to a high priority issue on the
public and the political agendas.
S.G.: From the vantage point of your previous experience as
Israel's Consul-General in Philadelphia and head of the Government
Press Office, what are your goals as director general of the
Ministry of the Environment?
I.P.: My background in communications and in the diplomatic arena
has underlined the importance of education and information,
cooperation and collaboration both on the national and
international fronts. We are living through times of rapid and
dramatic change and modern communication accelerates the pace of
worldwide developments. These dramatic times, in Israel and
worldwide, present us with both challenges and opportunities.
For example, the welcome influx of immigrants into Israel from
places as far flung as Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, and
their absorption into modern Israeli society has presented us with
a major challenge: providing each new immigrant with a proper roof
over his head and accelerating the pace of development so as to
provide each newcomer with employment opportunities as welland
all this while taking care not to damage precious environmental
We are living in a world that is becoming more and more
interdependent. Today, more than ever, strategies of international
cooperation must be developed to ensure vital development needs for
all nations without further destruction of the environment.
International cooperation will become increasingly important in
safeguarding global resources, for we have learned, the hard way,
that the environment knows no borders. It is our responsibility to
take an active part in national, regional and international efforts
to solve shared environmental problems.
Perhaps our greatest opportunity lies within the framework of the
peace process. Our region is especially sensitive to transboundary
pollution and therefore regional cooperation, within such
frameworks as the multilateral peace talks on the environment, will
certainly facilitate our ability to address shared environmental
problems for the wellbeing of all the people in this region.
Over the past decade, the general media in every Western country
has played a major role in placing environmental concerns at the
forefront of national concern. The international environmental
reawakening, at the highest political echelons, has and will
continue to have an impact on Israel. There is certainly a
significant increase in public activism on behalf of the
environment, and this process has been enhanced by the general
media. Newspapers and the electronic media alikeall cover
environmental stories on a regular basis. I hope to use my past
experience to further raise consciousness of the environmental
issue, both among the general public and among decision makers.
S.G.: What do you see as the major challenges facing the Ministry
of the Environment in the coming few years?
I.P.: The symbols of affluence in modern societyprivate cars,
electricity, chemicals, pesticideshave already placed major
stress on our environment. The anticipated growth in population and
industrial production in Israel in the coming years will present us
with additional challenges. But I am convinced that the
challenges, great as they are, are not insurmountable.
As I mentioned earlier, we must redouble our efforts to accord the
environmental issue the priority it deserves in government and
among the general public. There must be a major reorientation in
government vis a vis the management of water, land, and air. Israel
has developed a good system of environmental management. Now is
the time to translate our principles into action. To do this, we
will require increased budgetary allocations, better enforcement,
and innovative means of interacting with and educating the public.
Perhaps more than anything, we will invest extra effort in
disseminating in our people an environmental code of ethic, for I
believe that the key to sustainable development lies in awareness
The major elements in our environmental program are an aware and
active public, increased cooperation with the public and industrial
sectors, better collaboration with local authorities and other
organizations, and the allocation of sufficient funds to
effectively tackle major environmental problems.
I look forward to contributing my share to bring about these