New Israeli Minister Seeks to Scrap UAE Oil Deal – Haaretz

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg also vows to promote legislation to reduce carbon emissions and plastic usage but faces an uphill battle in achieving these goalsSend in e-mailSend in e-mail

Tamar Zandberg.
Tamar Zandberg.Credit: Emil Salman

Zafrir Rinat Jun. 16, 2021

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg promised on Tuesday to promote climate legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions, reduce consumption of plastic and cancel a recently signed agreement with the United Arab Emirates to transship oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe via Israel.

Although all her goals are unanimously supported by environmental organizations and professionals in the field, the chances of most of them being implemented are slim, given the ministry’s limited political influence.

“One government commitment in the government guidelines that I fought for was expansive climate legislation that will include a carbon-pricing mechanism,” Zandberg said during the ceremony at which her predecessor, Gila Gamliel, formally handed over control of the ministry. “We must end our dependency on fossil fuels, including natural gas, and set ambitious goals for transitioning to renewable energy.”

The government’s current target is to get 30 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Zandberg advocated raising this target to at least 40 percent and ending all warming emissions by 2050. In addition, she said, there must be “a serious plan to ensure that we meet the target, so it won’t remain a number on paper.”

She also promised to take steps to reduce the use of plastic, particularly disposable dishes, cups and silverware; ask the cabinet to cancel the oil transport agreement recently signed by the Europe Asia Pipeline Company; and tighten government supervision of the pipeline’s environmental risks. “The Gulf of Eilat is at real risk because of the EAPC pipeline, and Israel shouldn’t be an oil bridge to other countries,” she said.

The ministry currently has no power to change the electricity production target on its own. To do so, Zandberg would have to either persuade the cabinet to set different targets than those set by the Energy Ministry or persuade the new energy minister, Karin Elharrar, to change the targets.

Promotion of the climate law would require the Finance Ministry’s consent, and it is likely to object to steps such as a carbon tax, even though the Bank of Israel supports the idea.

As for the EAPC agreement, the Finance Ministry was tasked with examining the agreement by the Former Prime Minister’s Office prior to the transition to the new government.

The one issue on which the ministry could really affect change is dealing with plastic waste. It has both the power and the funding to create incentives for recycling plastic, and it could also submit legislation mandating a reduction in the use of disposable plastic ware. The European Union has already passed regulations barring the sale of most disposable plastic ware, and they are due to take effect next month.

Zandberg’s predecessor, Gamliel, had won broad support from environmental groups for her job performance, and many published press statements praising various steps the ministry took under her leadership. These included trying to push her own climate bill and expanding the bottle deposit law to cover larger bottles.

The Emirati oil deal that has infuriated Israeli environmentalists – YNET

Agreement between Israeli and Emirati companies will see tons of crude oil transferred through a pipeline across Israel, as well as hundreds of tankers docking alongside the fragile coral reefs in Eilat

Reuters | Published: 06.14.21 , 22:50 The first cargo ships from Dubai that docked last year in the Mediterranean port of Haifa were met by celebration in Israel. Flags waved. Reporters gathered. The prime minister walked the pier and gave a speech about the fruits of making peace.

There was zero fanfare, however, when oil tankers began arriving at the smaller Israeli port of Eilat on the Red Sea in an arrangement with Emirati partners. Rather than washing machines and cleaning supplies for consumers, the ships unloaded oil to be transferred through a pipeline across Israel to the Mediterranean.

אלמוגים שנפגעו במפרץ אילת
A coral reef polluted by oil in Eilat
(Photo: Environmental Protection Ministry)

The companies involved say this land bridge is the shortest, most efficient and cost-effective route to transport oil from the Gulf to the West. But the risks to the environment are far too great, say their opponents who are hoping to end the deal.About a month after Israel normalized ties with the United Arab Emirates last September, Israel’s state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) announced the new collaboration.

דליפת נפט גולמי מצינור של קצא"א אשקלון
An oil tanker off the coast of Ashdod swimming in a pool of oil after a pipeline burst
(Photo: Environmental Protection Ministry)

The deal was signed in Abu Dhabi with MED-RED Land Bridge, a company with Emirati and Israeli owners. In attendance was then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

EAPC’s roots are in the Persian Gulf. It was first set up as a joint venture between Israel and Iran in 1968 when the two countries were friendly. That partnership collapsed after the 1979 revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.The Israeli pipeline still operates in both directions but well below capacity in recent years, energy experts say. With the UAE stepping into the role once held by Iran, EAPC hopes to increase quantities by “tens of millions of tons per year”.

אלמוגים שנפגעו במפרץ אילת
A coral reef in Eilat damaged by pollution
(Photo: Environmental Protection Ministry)


The influx of ships set to dock alongside the fragile coral reefs in Eilat and the large amounts of oil to pass through Israel have outraged the country’s biggest environmental advocates.Fresh in their minds is an offshore oil spill in February that blackened much of Israel’s Mediterranean coast with tar. And in 2014, one of EAPC’s own pipelines ruptured, spilling 5 million liters of crude oil into a desert nature reserve.

“Most of the details (of the deal) are confidential by law. We know just a little bit, but the little bit makes us very anxious,” said Noa Yayon, head of the legal department at the Society for the Protection of Nature.Eilat’s coral reef is unique in that it has proved to be more resilient to climate change, when many reefs around the globe are dying. It is also a big tourism draw.But its proximity to the port means that even the smallest leak from one tankers would cause big, possibly irreversible, damage, Yayon said.”We are of course very happy with the current geopolitical status with the Arab countries in our area, but we don’t think that it has to come with the super-specific risks to our environment,” she said. “We think that we better promote business with these countries based on clean energy and not oil.”

שילמו בחייהם. צבים שנפגעו מהזפת בחוף דור
Turtles smeared in tar at Gador Nature Reserve after the oil spill off Israel’s coast
(Photo: Yosef Segal)

Former Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel sent a letter to Israel’s national security adviser saying “the warning lights are already flashing” and demanded the deal be scrapped.Too much was decided behind closed doors and remains secret, she said.EAPC has not made public details of the deal.”From a rate of six tankers a year, we expect an increase to more than 50 tankers a year docking in Eilat,” Gamliel wrote. “The continuation of this deal will be a tragedy for generations, whether from mishaps that may occur or in a wartime scenario.”Gamliel is being replaced with the swearing-in of the country’s new government, and her successor on Monday called the deal a mistake and said the government should oppose it.

A whale on Nitzanim Beach
A body of a whale believed to have died due to pollution found on Nitzanim Beach
(Photo: Ynet)

EAPC said the new business is part of its routine operations and that it meets the strictest international standards. Plus, the broader geopolitical gains cannot be ignored.”Israel is expected to benefit greatly from the agreement, which will strengthen the Israeli economy and its international standing, as well as ensure its energy independence and security,” the company said in a statement.The Society for the Protection of Nature together with other groups have petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court for a temporary order to freeze the deal. Yayon said the state is due to present its official position in coming days.The Finance Ministry, which oversees EAPC, declined to comment due to the open court case.A representative of UAE’s National Holding, which owns Petromal, one of the owners of MED-RED Land Bridge, had no immediate comment on the issue.