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Israel’s Environmental Ministry rebukes the deal for the Israel-UAE pipeline
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Israel’s Environmental Ministry rebukes the deal for the Israel-UAE pipeline

Israel’s 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 deal was signed by Israel’s state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Co.(EAPC) with MED-RED Land Bridge Ltd., a private Dubai company. It calls for Israel as an artery to transport Emirati crude to Western market via an existing EAPC pipeline.

The Abraham Accords’ first major partnership was hailed. But environmental groups quickly criticized it for allegedly posing a danger 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 announced that we had stopped the entry of numerous oil tankers into Eilat’s Gulf of Eilat. The State of Israel will not allow oil pollution to spread to the Gulf of Eilat in this climate crisis era.

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.

In the statement, the ministry included a Dec. 8 document, signed by the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, which said the government would not interfere with decisions about the deal reached by professionals in the relevant ministries.

We, the professional echelon, made it very clear to the minister. I really hope our friends from the [pipeline company]Rani Amir from the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Marine Environment Protection Division, stated that they will grasp the meaning and internalize it. “We won’t move one meter from our position.

He said that the ministry’s move was a very significant environmental achievement as the pipeline deal would have increased oil tankers visiting Eilat port by 30 to 35 percent.

Amir stated that this danger is one we, as the Environmental Ministry are not ready to accept. This is the end from our point of view.

Asaf Ben Leviy, legal advisor to the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel, said that the Environmental Ministry may have declared victory prematurely. Although the ministry has temporarily stopped oil tankers visiting the Gulf of Eilat from visiting, Ben Levy suggested that this may be temporary. This could be due to pressure from other ministries or a change in leadership at the ministry. He pointed out, for instance, that the Ministry of Finance supported the deal and argued that cancelling a contract could adversely impact Israel’s ability to do business abroad.

Ben Levy’s main concern is the fact that the Israeli government didn’t clearly support the environmentalists in its response to Supreme Court. He said that it was a theoretical and even academic response, which only looked at the legal situation from a distant perspective. It tries not to be biased and doesn’t decide in any way.

EAPC, an Israeli company that operates pipelines, made a statement to JNS claiming that it wanted to make the best out of the situation. The clear and decisive position of the Ministry of Finance and the Government Companies Authority (a professional unit of the Finance Ministry) is that EAPC acted as expected of it in developing the company’s business activities with international customers, and that the agreement has significant geopolitical and economic benefits for the State of Israel and its citizens, EAPC said.

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 that his side will win. Things looked very different when we presented our case to court in May. The EAPC did not feel under pressure. It is a significant step forward. It’s just not a victory yet.

He suggested that one possibility was that the UAE would walk away from the agreement. I’m not sure how long theyll keep going with the contract before aborting it given its lack of existence in practical terms, he said.

Amir, speaking for the environmental ministry, suggested that the UAE could be the final nail in this agreement. A situation could arise where this agreement is canceled because its partners will understand the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s insistence that there is no feasible way for increased activity at Eilat port.

The implications of this for the Red Sea ecosystem are still unknown. October will be GlobesIt was reported that the UAE, worried about the Israeli governments’ waffling over this deal, was considering a land bridge through Egypt.

If the report is correct, it would mean that the new route would run starting at Taba in Egypt on the Red Sea. Israels pipeline installation is just a short distance away. Israel’s coral reefs would be just as vulnerable to an oil spillage. Israel has no upside.

The EAPC stated in a statement that the establishment of an alternative in Taba in Egyptian territory, approximately 100 meters from the EAPC, is a demonstration of the absurdity. The agreement will not benefit Israel’s citizens or the State of Israel. They will also not be able monitor the Egyptian facility in Gulf of Eilat.

JNS was told at the time by Ben Levy that Israel should ignore such considerations.

He said that we cannot have a race for the bottom. We cannot look at other nations and say, “If they don’t meet our standards, then we should lower them.” It should be the reverse.

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