Israelis take to streets and bridges to protest UAE’s secret oil deal

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Hundreds of Israelis went to some 50 sites on Saturday to protest against insufficient state action on climate change, as well as an agreement between a state-owned company and an Israeli-Emirati consortium to deliver Gulf oil via Israel, to reach European markets.

Young Israelis regularly demonstrate on Fridays, as part of the global Fridays4Future movement, while Parents for the Climate – Israel occupies street corners and bridges above highways on Saturdays.

The protest against the Europe Asia Pipeline Company deal took place as an inter-ministerial committee in the prime minister’s office was reviewing the deal signed last October.

The deal calls for the EAPC to receive Gulf oil at its Red Sea terminal in Eilat, southern Israel, and channel it overland via pipelines to its Mediterranean port of Ashkelon, on the south coast, where it would be loaded onto tankers bound for the south. Europe.

It is opposed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, a forum of around 20 environmental organizations (6,500 people signed a petition) and dozens of scientists and residents of Eilat. Among the causes for concern are the EAPC’s poor environmental record and numerous leaks in the past – six years ago it was responsible for the biggest environmental disaster in Israel’s history.

Another factor is the importance of Eilat’s coral reefs, not only to the city’s tourism and employment sectors, but also globally. Eilat’s corals are proving exceptionally resistant to warming oceans and could be used to rehabilitate reefs that cannot cope elsewhere in the world.

Eilat Mayor Eli Lankri (in white shirt) addresses a demonstration against an oil deal with an Israeli-Emirati consortium, September 25, 2021 (Or Moshe, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)

Opponents of the deal have also drawn attention to the dangers that an oil spill at Ashkelon’s EAPC port could pose to the country’s desalination facilities, Israel’s main source of drinking water, in addition to the risks. releases of carcinogenic pollutants to the air during the loading and unloading of crude oil.

The EAPC declined to release details of the deal, and it is still unclear if anyone in government saw it before it was signed.

In northern Tel Aviv, protesters gathered outside the home of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Lapid responded via his Facebook page that if he had been home he would have gone out to meet them.

Noting that the agreement was signed under the previous government, and that it was the Prime Minister’s Office and not the Foreign Ministry that was considering the issue “with extreme caution”, he said he assumed that the protesters, “Israeli patriots” in his eyes, understood that the state must take seriously the agreements signed by previous governments.

Europe’s Asia Pipeline Company Oil Boom in Eilat, designed to catch any potential oil spill before it spills over into the sea. (Courtesy EAPC)

Having said that, he acknowledged that it was “still important to make sure that if mistakes have been made in the past, we will try to correct them.”

Lapid continued, “I don’t know what the decision of the inter-ministerial committee will be, but all parties – the UAE, relevant ministries, environmental organizations – will want to know that a thorough, thorough and serious consideration has been carried out before decisions are made.

He added: “We will ensure that no one tries to approve a decision under the radar during the review, and when conclusions are drawn, we will ensure that they are transparent to the public.”

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