Israeli minister calls for u-turn on UAE pipeline deal
Israel's minister for environmental protection has called for the cancelation of an oil transport deal with the UAE, citing serious environmental and security concerns, according to Haaretz.
Minister Gila Gamliel wrote to the head of the National Security Council Meir Ben Shabbat arguing that the transfer of UAE oil through Israel risks environmental damage, and that transporters and storage facilities could be targeted in attacks by militants.
Gamliel highlighted the many risks the deal poses to marine ecological systems should there be a technical fault or hostile attack.
She noted that recent fighting between Israel and Hamas resulted in a large fuel container in Ashkelon being hit by rocket fire. If a similar attack hits the Eilat-Ashkelon’s pipeline storage compound the environmental damage caused would dwarf that of a recent oil spill in the Mediterranean, she warned.
A deal to transport oil from the UAE through the Eilat and Ashkelon pipeline was signed six months ago.
It would allow oil from the UAE to reach the Mediterranean, and according to estimates the number of tankers arriving annually at Israeli ports would increase from six to over 50.
The environmental protection and energy ministries were not consulted on the deal, Gamliel said, despite it falling within the purview of the prime minister's office.
Gamliel claims that she has written to the National Security Council on multiple occasions to request a meeting with the council's chief to discuss the deal's details but that their meetings were repeatedly cancelled.
A report by the ministry of environmental protection noted that a leak at the Eilat terminal - located in the same area as the city's renowned coral reef - would rapidly contaminate the environmental sensitive area due to strong currents and winds.
If a significant oil leak occurs neither the pipeline company nor the ministry have the capabilities to stem the flow, the letter added.
The deal previously came under scrutiny when several environmental organisations delivered a petition to the High Court of Justice against the pipeline. A preliminary response to the petition by the state is scheduled to be made within two weeks.
Responding to Gamliel's claims and concerns, the prime minister's office described the letter as "puzzling".
"As early as last March, the National Security Council sent Minister Gamliel a letter in which she was informed that the National Security Council does not deal with this matter," they said.