A consortium of academic institutions around Israel will soon establish the Haifa-based National Center for Mediterranean Research, to investigate fossil fuel extraction, desalination and infrastructure in the basin.

Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, a subcommittee of the Council for Higher Education, recently adopted the recommendation of an Israel Academy of Sciences Committee to grant the consortium a tender to establish the center, according to the group’s head institution, the University of Haifa.

Within the consortium will be representatives from seven different academic institutions in addition to the University of Haifa – the Technion, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Geological Survey of Israel and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Center. Establishing the center will cost approximately NIS 60 million for its first three years of activity.

Leading the center will be Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham, founding director of the University of Haifa’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, who stressed that the sea will remain a primary field of research in Israel in the coming years – particularly due to the large natural gas finds in the Mediterranean. Such discoveries require the constant involvement of trained researchers and scientists to determine the implications of such progress, said Ben- Avraham.

The president of the University of Haifa, Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, said he was proud of the Planning and Budgeting Committee’s choice, stressing that the Mediterranean Sea “is a strategic asset for Israel” that will bring the country economic independence.

“Forming Israel’s coastline to the west, the Mediterranean possesses magnificent resources, a developed infrastructure, economic promise and international trade potential,” Ben Ze’ev said.

“The resources hidden beneath the surface can significantly strengthen Israel’s energy economy, can contribute to closing social gaps and can ultimately increase Israel’s political strength at home and abroad.”

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