JNS.org – Israels Ministry of Environmental Protection announced on Dec. 16 that it has halted a plan that would have allowed more oil tankers to enter the Gulf of Eilat, imperiling a major deal to transport United Arab Emirates oil over a land bridge from Eilat on the Red Sea to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean.
The pipeline DealThe agreement, signed by Israel’s state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Co. and MED-RED Land Bridge Ltd. (a private Dubai-based company), on October 19, 2020, calls for Israel as an artery for Emirati crude oil to Western markets via an existing EAPC pipeline.
The Abraham Accords were hailed as the first major partnership. However, environmental groups quickly criticized the deal for allegedly posing a threat to the Gulf of Eilats coral Reefs. Advocates claimed that the pipeline would result in a higher number of oil tankers coming into the gulf, increasing the likelihood of spillages.
Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg stated that we stopped the entry of dozens of oil tanksers into the Gulf of Eilat. In an era of climate change, the State of Israel and Gulf of Eilat won’t be able to act as a bridge for oil pollution.
December 22, 2021, 7:37 a.m.
Zandberg stated that her ministry had presented facts and data to all relevant ministries and convinced them that no argument could be made for expanding EAPC activities for oil transportation and storage in the Gulf of Eilat.
The ministry also included a Dec. 8, signed by the director of the Prime Ministers Office, that stated that the government would respect the decisions made by professionals from the relevant ministries regarding the deal.
All of us in the professional echelon made our position clear to Minister. I hope that our friends at The [pipeline company]Rani Amir, director of Marine Environment Protection Division of Ministry of Environmental Protection, said that she will be able to understand its meaning and will take it in her stride. JNS.
He stated that the ministry’s decision is an important environmental achievement because the pipeline deal would have increased tanker visits to the port of Eilat by between 30 and 35 times.
Amir stated that this is a risk that we, the Environmental Ministry, aren’t prepared to accept. This is the end from our point of view.
Asaf Benjamin Levy, legal counsel to the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel (“SPNI”), one of three Israeli environmental groups that filed suit against the deal last May in Israel’s Supreme Court, stated however JNSThe Environmental Ministry may have declared victory too quickly. The ministry has prevented oil tankers from entering the Gulf of Eilat. However, Ben Levy stated that the situation could be temporary due to changes in leadership or pressure from other ministries. He noted that, for example, the Ministry of Finance had supported the deal by arguing that cancelling a contract could negatively impact Israel’s ability do business with other nations.
Ben Levys main concern was that the Israeli government did not respond to the Supreme Court clearly on behalf of environmentalists. He stated that it was a very theoretical and even academic reply, which analyzed the legal situation in a very distant manner. It tries not to be biased and doesn’t decide in any way.
In a statement provided JNSEAPC, an Israeli pipe company, sought to make the best out of the situation. EAPC stated that EAPC took the clear and decisive stand of the Ministry of Finance (a professional unit of Finance Ministry) in developing the company’s business activities with international clients. The agreement also has significant geopolitical, economic and social benefits for Israel and its citizens.
EAPC refuted claims that it was not taking environmental considerations into account. It stated that the company is committed and will use all available means to preserve the environment, nature’s values, and the sea. It also said that it would continue to work with the Environmental Ministry.
Ben Levy will represent SPNI in front of the court. He is optimistic his side will win. Things looked very different when we presented our case to court in May. The EAPC was not under any pressure. This is a huge step forward. It’s not yet a victory.
He suggested that one possibility was that the UAE would walk away from the agreement. He said they don’t know how long they will keep the contract in place before terminating it.
Amir spoke on behalf of the environment ministry and suggested that the UAE might be the final nail in the agreement. A situation could arise where this agreement is canceled because its partners will understand the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s insistence that it is impossible to support this type of increased activity at Eilat port.
It is not clear what this means for the Red Sea ecosystem. In October GlobesIt was reported that the UAE was worried about the Israeli governments’ intransigence over the deal and was looking at an alternative. Land bridgeEgypt.
If accurate, the report would indicate that the new route would run from Taba, Egypt on the Red Sea. This is only a short distance from Israel’s pipeline installation. Israel’s coral reefs would be just as vulnerable to an oil spillage, with no upside for Israel.
In a statement, the EAPC stated that establishing an alternative in Taba on Egyptian territory, 100 meters from EAPC, was a sign of the absurdity. The agreement will not have any significant economic, geopolitical and security benefits for Israel’s citizens or the State of Israel. It will also not allow Israel to monitor the Egyptian facility at the Gulf of Eilat.
Ben Levy told JNSAt the time, Israel should ignore such considerations.
He said that we cannot have a race for the bottom. We cannot look at countries and say, “If they do not meet our standards then we should lower ours.” It should be the opposite.