01/04/2012 05:52

Advocacy groups filed a petition against a government deal on upcoming salt harvest and royalties paid to Dead Sea Works.
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Environmental advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) and the Movement for Quality Government submitted a petition to the High Court on Tuesday morning, calling for cancellation of the recent agreement between the government and Israel Chemicals regarding the upcoming Dead Sea salt harvest and company royalty charges.

The agreement, approved by the cabinet on Sunday, stipulated that Israel Chemicals branch Dead Sea Works would be responsible for 80 percent, or NIS 3.04 billion, of the salt harvest in the southern basin of the Dead Sea. Meanwhile, royalties paid to the state on the company’s potash sales would rise from 5% to 10%, with the extra money being allocated to a Dead Sea rehabilitation fund. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan as well as various green groups have expressed their dissatisfaction with the agreement, which was first made privately between the finance minister and the company.

The dual-organization backed petition to the High Court argues that the deal made with Israel Chemicals is “disproportionate” and that the low royalty fees “violate principles of distributive justice” as well as the interests of the general public. The petition also charged that the agreement occurred without transparency and without public debate, according to Adam Teva V’Din.

Charging the finance ministry with “misleading the public,” the petition says the company will continue to reap enormous profits while the public receives little gain.

“It is impossible that the government’s reckless conduct will pass without public and legal criticism, and we are sure that the High Court will review the petition with serious consideration,” said Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha.

Bracha argued that the agreement took place in “the dark” and that the government has failed to perform its duties properly.

“The movement expects that the government will protect the interests of the public and our natural resources,” added Zeruiah Medad-Luzon, legal adviser to the Movement for Quality Government. “The binding obligation made with the proprietors of the ‘salt harvest’ with regards to the [royalties] that are transferred into public coffers – hurts the public interests.”

Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.