01/10/2012 04:54

For second time, cabinet rejects bill that would provide for the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Dead Sea region.
Talkbacks (3)

The cabinet rejected a bill for the second time that would provide for the comprehensive rehabilitation of the Dead Sea region, during a meeting on Monday.

“The Israeli government continues to stand by the side of the factories and to thwart any move that could save the Dead Sea and return it to its original owners – the public,” said Adam Teva V’Din executive director, Amit Bracha, in a statement released by his office.

The bill, drafted by Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) and put forward by MK Dov Henin (Hadash), advocated a comprehensive Dead Sea rehabilitation plan, to help curb sinking water levels in the northern basin, preserve area resources and revamp the management structure overseeing mineral extraction.

After being defeated in a cabinet vote about a monthand- a-half ago, the issue came up for a second vote today, in which Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan was the sole supporter, with four objectors, according to his office. The vote occurred on Monday, as the regular Sunday cabinet meeting stretched into the following day.

According to Erdan’s office, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud) declared during the cabinet discussion that the current state of the Dead Sea is not a “catastrophe” and that the region’s sinkholes have transformed the area into a tourism mecca.

Erdan responded that if Israel continues with its current practices, not only the Dead Sea, but also Lake Kinneret, will disappear as tourist attractions. He will be submitting an appeal to the government about the decision, his office said.

The rejection comes a week after the cabinet’s approval of an agreement made between Israel Chemicals branch Dead Sea Works and the Finance Ministry, which stipulated that a full salt harvest occur with 80 percent financing on the part of the company. This agreement also raised royalties owed to the government from 5% to 10%, an amount that environmental advocates criticized as trivial and damaging to public interests.

“There is no doubt that the conduct of the Treasury last week proves that Dead Sea Works must thank Steinitz for continuing to protect them and to go against public interest,” Bracha said.

In a letter to the ministers, Bracha reminded them that last week’s agreement only applies to salt removal from the southern basin and royalty rates the government receives from the company. He stressed that the agreement does not include a complete rehabilitation of the entire Dead Sea and protection of its natural resources.

Meanwhile, the ministers also received last night an online petition signed by over 15,000 people in support of the more comprehensive Dead Sea bill, jointly issued by activist group Avaaz, Adam Teva V’Din and environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Bracha added: “The government torpedoed today a step that would save the Dead Sea and return it from the hands of captains of industry to the hands of the public.”