Global Lawyering Field Study Explores Water, Energy, Dispute Resolution in Israel

July 26, 2018

Israel May16 JerusalemTexas A&M School of Law students, led by Professors Gabriel Eckstein and Nancy Welsh, experience global lawyering in the Middle East, exploring politics, policies, and law (and enjoying some sightseeing [here, in Jerusalem]) in the Global Programs Field Study course "Israel: Water, Energy, and ​Dispute Resolution."

The Texas A&M University School of Law Global Programs field studies transport law students to regions where legal issues collide with unique, dynamic realities, offering direct engagement and hands-on lessons not possible through textbooks. Each summer and spring break, the School of Law offers its students the opportunity to travel with their professors outside of the United States to experience global lawyering firsthand in the field.

This summer, A&M law students enjoyed the opportunity to explore dispute resolution and natural resources management issues in Israel ​and Scotland

Gabriel Eckstein Nancy WelshThe Global Lawyering Field Study Israel: Water, Energy and Dispute Resolution was led by the director of the Program in Natural Resources Systems, Professor Gabriel Eckstein, and Aggie Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program director, Professor Nancy Welsh.

ISRAEL:  Water, Energy and Dispute Resolution

Israel May9 SorekStudents touring Israel’s Sorek desalination plant near Tel Aviv, the world’s largest seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) ​facility with seawater treatment capacity of 624,000 m³/day.

2L Brandon Cofield said that prior to the trip to Israel, he did not know what to expect. “When I initially applied to the Israel global lawyering course, my understanding of water law and dispute resolution was nascent, but I was interested in learning how the two areas of law intersect to solve problems,” Cofield said. 

The Aggie Law students attended trip-specific classes prior to their group travel outside the country, which offered a useful starting point. “Each class lecture and student presentation provided insight into the complex social and legal issues in Israel. However, soon after our arrival, I realized that Israel is a country that must be experienced to fully grasp the culture and issues at hand,” said Cofield.

He said the field study was rewarding and intense. “We met with more professors and professionals than I thought possible in such a short period of time, but the overall experience and sense of cultural immersion were well worth the exhaustion.”

2L Brandon Schuelke said that outside the preparatory lectures, he had no idea what to expect prior to his visit. “I had never done a study abroad and never traveled overseas before. All I had hoped was that the trip would be fun and full of possibilities to learn about a region starved for water,” said Schuelke. 

At the same time, he wanted to achieve many goals while in Israel. “I was interested in attending this trip to learn more about the disputes surrounding Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the laws and policy surrounding water, and possibly looking into how water can be used as a starting point in bilateral peace negotiations between each party.”

Israel Jordan R Water Diversion w Nadav EcoPeaceAggie Law students explore the water-energy nexus between Israel, Jordan and Palestine and "environmental peacebuilding" proposed by EcoPeace. Near the Beit Zera Reservoir, hydrologist Nadav Tal of EcoPeace illustrates the mutual recognition of "rightful allocations" in the surface waters of the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers outlined in the 1994 Treaty of Peace between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Schuelke said he was also intrigued by the Israeli system of government. “The most interesting things I learned about the laws in Israel are that the country does not have a constitution. The water is owned by the people, but controlled by the state, and that water law and policy are considered to be ‘low politics,’ which means that there is already a general consensus among all peoples, cultures, and states that everyone should have access to water.”

Cofield also remarked about the differences and similarities with the United States in Israel’s laws: “Many of the legal issues in Israel are similar to those in the U.S., which made it fun to compare the different legal systems and explore the impact that each system has on potential solutions,” he said. 

“For example, in Haifa, we had a dynamic discussion with professors and students where they welcomed our diverse perspective on their current legal research projects,” said Cofield. “I believe that both the A&M and Haifa students benefitted from this exchange of ideas, as I found myself deeply engaged in trying to understand and solve the legal issues. This international experience helped me realize that justice can be attained even if the law of the land differs.”

To Schuelke, the experience was a great awakening. “This trip has opened my eyes to the possibility of practicing international law and has really made it difficult to decide what type of law I would like to practice,” he said. 

“But, the one thing this trip has done for me is reinforce my desire to practice law in some form because I was able to see firsthand how laws and policy truly affect the livelihoods of people living in a water-starved region of the world. Water is needed to survive, and I was able to learn about the technologies and innovations that Israel is using to provide water for their citizens, their agriculture, and their neighboring countries,” he concluded.

israel-May9-Sorek-Tour3wWater is pumped from the ​sea into pretreatment reservoirs at Sorek which contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

Professor Eckstein, who is originally from Israel, and Professor Welsh said they selected Israel as a global field study site for many reasons.

“We proposed Israel because the country has unique strengths and experiences in the focus areas we wanted to emphasize: water, energy, and dispute resolution,” said Eckstein. “We were especially interested in learning about the country’s policies and regulations of the water sector to see how governance mechanisms may have helped Israel become such a global leader.” 

Although this is Welsh’s fourth visit to Israel, it is her first time accompanying law students.

“All of my visits have focused on dispute resolution in Israel — initiatives in online dispute resolution; the institutionalization of mediation in Israel’s courts; an overview of dispute resolution with a group of dispute-resolution-focused law professors; and now, this field course,” said Welsh.

“Israel is a fascinating country on many levels. The land itself is so significant, and a single site — e.g., the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock — can be the subject of strong and very different narratives,” said Welsh.

“One of the techniques of a mediator is to hear different narratives, allow these narratives to coexist, not choose among them, and instead serve as a sort of translator. In this way, a mediator may permit each ‘side’ to see/acknowledge the narrative of the ‘other.’ Such acknowledgement can sometimes assist with understandings on a human level and create openings for agreement on some issues,” continued Welsh.  

“While in Israel, we met with negotiators, lawyers, environmental activists and academics using these and other techniques to address water scarcity and pollution affecting Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians,” said Welsh.

Israel May9 Sorek Tour​Massive concrete jack-pipes like this one bring water from the Mediterranean into the Sorek desalinization plant. Innovative joint ventures, like desalinization, addressing water scarcity and natural resources management in the Middle East could potentially unite longtime adversaries in a common cause.

Eckstein’s and Welsh’s numerous professional connections in Israel were used to help law students learn more about the country’s natural resources laws as well as its approaches to dispute resolution. During the trip, the group met with experts in water management and regulations and visited Israel’s Sorek desalination plant as well as its Shafdan wastewater treatment facility.

“Israel today meets around 80 percent of its domestic - e.g., household - water needs from ocean water desalination. In addition, it treats and reuses close to 90 percent of its municipal wastewater and uses the recycled water in its highly water-efficient agriculture sector. It is noteworthy that Spain treats and reuses the next highest percentage of national domestic wastewater, only 20 percent, while the U.S. treats and reuses only around seven percent,” said Eckstein.

“The students learned from in-house counsel, government lawyers and negotiators, and heads of NGOs about the negotiations and legal questions that must be answered in planning, building, funding and operating large and small infrastructure projects like desalination plants and solar power fields, as well as the processes used to resolve disputes that can arise out of these facilities’ operations,” said Welsh.

Israel May17 Clive LipshinDr. Clive Lipchin explains the West Bank Auja solar and irrigation project, a solar array that pumps water to local farmers. The project is financed by Build Israel Palestine, a group involving both Muslims and Jews in the United States, and has both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims on its technical team.

Eckstein said that visiting Israel was quite nostalgic and that he enjoyed sharing the country with his law students. “I was able to take students to a country that I hold close to my heart and that has made such incredible achievements while under extreme environmental and other conditions.”

“We wanted the students to have an opportunity to see how these issues are addressed in other countries and within other societies, cultures and contexts. We especially wanted to expose them to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things,” said Eckstein. “As a result, we arranged around two dozen meetings and visits with a variety of experts working on water, energy, and dispute resolution issues.”

Eckstein concluded all of the students are now engaged in various research projects related to the trip and the discussions they had during the trip and will be developing papers and presentations on their findings during the fall 2018 semester.

Israel May17 Dead SeaAt the Dead Sea, exploring water and energy issues effecting Israel and Palestine with Dr. Clive Lipchin (on left). 3L Daniel Howell (standing at right) is doing research for Dr. Lipchin in an internship at the Arava Institute.

At the completion of the Global Lawyering Field Study, 3L Daniel Howell began an extended stay in Israel to complete his internship with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies located at Kibbutz Ketura on the Israeli side of the Arava Valley. Howell is doing research for Dr. Clive Lipchin, the director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management.

“The research involves water and wastewater exchanges between the West Bank and Israel, and I am looking to international treaties and agreements in the rest of the world that might help provide a structure for a solution in the future,” said Howell.

Similarly, 3L Elizabeth Ramey has been offered a six-month internship with Gigawatt Global, the leading Israeli solar energy producer and a founding partner of Power Africa, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

Learn more about the various professionals the Aggie law students met while in Israel

These leading scholars, practitioners and industry experts enabled the law students to see water and energy issues and opportunities from a variety of important perspectives: as public officials/negotiators, regulators, entrepreneurs, funders, environmental activists, lawyers, concerned citizens, and academics.

  • Ram Aviram -- former Chief of Staff for Shimon Peres; former Israeli Ambassador to Greece. He was responsible for all five tracks of the multilateral negotiations for the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the 1990s; more recently, he has dealt with cross-border water strategies, including the Red-Dead project and rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan.

  • Alon Tal -- ​Director of ​Public Policy, Tel Aviv University – topic: overview of environmental planning in Israel

  • Lihy Teuerstein -- Deputy CEO and former General Counsel, IDE Technologies

  • Eitan Yudilevich -- Executive Director, Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD)

  • Gidon Bromberg -- Director of EcoPeace

  • Deborah Shmueli -- Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa; Head, National Knowledge and Research Center for Emergency Readiness; Co-Principal Investigator, Minerva Center for the Rule of Law Under Extreme Conditions

  • Reut Hirschhorn -- General Counsel, Israel Land Authority, Haifa Office

  • Jack Jacobs -- Founder, Cleantech Law Partners

  • Yossi Abramowitz -- CEO, Gigawatt Global

  • Dr. Clive Lipchin -- Director, Center for Transboundary Water Management, Arava Institute

  • Ono Academic College
    • Dr. Omer Shapira -- Faculty Member, Law Department; author, A Theory of Mediators’ Ethics (Cambridge University Press) 
    • Dr. Hanan Mandel -- Faculty Member, Law Department; founder, Environmental Law Clinic; Managing Editor, Democratic Culture Journal
    • Dr. Miriam Haran -- Head, MBA Environmental Management Program; External Director, Israel Chemicals Ltd.; former Director General, Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection

  • Givat Haviva
    • Dr. Ran Kuttner -- Academic Advisor
    • Lydia Aisenberg -- Lead Study Tour Guide

  • University of Haifa Marine Resources, Law and Policy Legal Clinic
    • Nadia Mogilevsky
    • Orna Rabinovich
    • Itamar Mann

  • Kidron Valley Initiative
    • Richard Laster -- Partner, Laster & Goldman; Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Avner Goren
    • Muhamad Nakhal
Israel May11 Reut Hirshhorn Students meeting with Reut Hirshhorn (second from right), legal council with the Israel Land Authority, to learn about land use, agriculture and natural resources issues in the region.


Article by Tyra Kelly, Texas A&M University School of Law.
Photos courtesy of the faculty and students participating in the Israel field study.