Israeli Student Develops Peace Park Plan for Golan Heights

June 4, 2009
By Lindsay Hodges Anderson

An Israeli Harvard Kennedy School student wants to use his background as a trained architect to bring an area of cooperation to the Golan Heights through a Peace Park that produces clean energy.

As part of his Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) this spring, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat MPP 2009 leveraged an opportunity for Israel to initiate a new way to overcome years of distrust between Israel and Syria and set a system that both parties can benefit from. The proposal suggests that sovereignty on the Golan will return to the Syrians in return to securing the Israeli access to the Golan after withdrawal. Both parties are suggested to share an energy venture through a peace park holding a wind energy plant. The Golan Heights are currently governed by Israel, but remain an area of disputed sovereignty.

“The fact that the Golan Heights are abundant with wind energy potential made a joint renewable energy plant a perfect component to mobilize the cooperation process and ensure a long lasting peace,” said Greenfield-Gilat. “Since renewable energy has become not only a regional tool for peace, but also a global necessity, it made perfect sense to establish the agreement on clean energy.”

Peace parks are usually developed as a constructive solution to the interest of both countries based on a mutual agreement to uphold the joint ownership. Greenfield-Gilat said his plans would see the park kept safe only if both the countries agree and invest efforts to maintain partnership and cooperation.

“Besides the possibility for Syrian and Israeli families to meet during the stay in the park, the industries will be designed to maximize the utilization of cross culture meetings and opportunities,” said Greenfield-Gilat. “Besides the clean energy production, the energy industry and academic facilities will enjoy the international benefits of integrated cultural cooperation and even the small tourist industries can be jointly owned and managed. All of these policies are aimed to enable the development of ‘people to people’ opportunities.”

Greenfield-Gilat recently completed two journeys to Washington DC where he presented the layout of the project to current and former senior level officials to make the case for the Golan peace park. He said the responses were positive and productive, and “contained hard questions and analysis that forced me to fine-tune my approach and modify some of my assumptions”. The United States Institute of Peace acted as his PAE “client” and is publishing the study as part of a series of peace park discussions that deal with Israel and Syria's future.

Greenfield-Gilat said he is planning to return to Israel to continue working on issues of policy and planning related to territorial conflicts and is considering joining the Israeli government to contribute to the peace efforts from within the public sector.

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Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat MPP 2009

Greenfield-Gilat has taken his plans for a Peace Park to Washington DC twice where he presented the layout of the project to current and former senior level officials. Photo provided.

"The fact that the Golan Heights are abundant with wind energy potential made a joint renewable energy plant a perfect component to mobilize the cooperation process and ensure a long lasting peace." - Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat

Thematic scheme for a Renewable Energy Peace Park from Greenfield-Gialt's PAE paper.

Thematic scheme for a Renewable Energy Peace Park from Greenfield-Gialt's PAE paper.