October 18, 2018

L.A. County, Beverly Hills discuss their own water deals with Israel

The State of Israel has entered into two separate agreements with the Beverly Hills City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors related to tackling water-shortage problems and more.

The L.A. County vote Sept. 1 was unanimous, according to Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel. Each supervisor — including Mike Antonovich, who introduced the motion, and Sheila Kuehl, who co-sponsored it — supported what is described on Kuehl’s website as “a resolution between Los Angeles County and the State of Israel for the purpose of establishing a formal relationship that fosters the exchange of research and information, facilitates joint developments, and enhances relationships and opportunities to incubate solutions to the water crisis.”

Kuehl told the Journal in a phone interview that Israel and L.A. County have been in talks for some time about coming together to work on water issues.

[READ: History of water desalination in Israel]

“I think when the consul general was first sworn in, he had indicated he was interested in working with the county on any number of issues, and one of them we discussed had to do with water and how we are in a severe drought, and how, when I was in Israel, I was impressed with technology they were developing for reuse, recycling, conservation, etc.,” she said. “So I co-sponsored to work officially with Israel to see how we can learn mutually from the research they’ve done, the technology they’ve developed — and we really need it.”

The agreement with Beverly Hills, also  unanimous, passed on the same night. 

“It’s also significant beyond water,” Siegel said in a phone interview, describing it as “a strategic agreement, deepening the relationship between Beverly Hills and the State of Israel on a host of issues — six issues — loosely based on the California-Israel [Memorandum of Understanding] from last year.”

Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership for Joint Innovation, Exchanges and Cooperation. Both leaders at the time said the pact would help to solve problems in such areas as water conservation, alternative energy and cybersecurity threats.

“I co-sponsored to work officially with Israel to see how we can learn mutually from the research they’ve done, the technology they’ve developed — and we really need it.” — L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl

“Truly there is no better partnership for Beverly Hills than to be a partner with Israel,” City Councilmember Lili Bosse said during the council meeting shortly before the vote took place. 

The partnership between Beverly Hills and Israel will focus on cybersecurity, public health, emergency services, disaster preparedness, public safety, counterterrorism and art and culture. But Siegel, who attended the vote, said the most critical part of the plan involves water, as Beverly Hills residents are among the most scrutinized in terms of Angelenos’ water-usage habits. 

“I think the most urgent [part of the partnership] is going to be water because of what’s happening with the drought, and in Beverly Hills, they need to cut back 30 percent,” Siegel said. 

How will Israel and Beverly Hills work to conserve water? That’s yet to be determined, Siegel said. 

“We didn’t go into that much detail yet. It’s an overall agreement. We’re already looking at various technologies — they have significant water plans they are working on,” he said. “And L.A. County is going to be similar. We’re coming together with work groups, possible demonstrations and projects.”

Siegel said he expects more than 800 people to attend when Israel and Beverly Hills formalize their partnership on Nov. 10 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts during a gala benefit for the Annenberg Center and American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The evening will feature a performance by Israeli conductor Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic; the resolution will be signed during intermission.

“That’s going to be a big event,” Siegel said.

Information regarding the formalization of the L.A. County partnership was not immediately available.

Siegel said these sorts of agreements are important ways of strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. 

“It is not just top-down — it’s from bottom-up. So we are very active,” Siegel said. These include a 2014 partnership with West Hollywood toward convening an HIV/AIDS task force.

Next on the horizon, Siegel and various officials of the Southwestern United States will travel to Israel for the country’s annual Water Technology and Environment Control Exhibition and Conference, held from Oct. 13-15.

The Israeli official, who is near the completion of his tenure as consul general, said the recent agreements represent the culmination of years of work.

“This is my final year — a year to see a lot of things come to completion that we have been working on for a long time.”