The Jerusalem District Court on Monday rejected a Dead Sea Works petition to
keep transcripts from arbitration hearings over royalties from becoming publicly
The company went into arbitration talks with the Finance
Ministry in 2010 over whether it had paid the appropriate level of royalties to
the government, and whether the government had fulfilled its promises to support
The judge in the case, Yigal Mersel, ruled that the
subject – the nation’s natural resource reserves – was a public matter, and not
a private business one. The company will also have to pay NIS 20,000 in legal
fees for Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), the
environmental group that demanded that the Finance Ministry make the transcripts
public in August, 2012, prompting the Dead Sea Works petition.
Chemicals (ICL), which owns Dead Sea Works, argued that the transcripts revealed
trade secrets, and said it had received assurances at the start of the
arbitration process that they would not be revealed.
“ICL put faith in
the government representatives and arbitration institution, and throughout the
arbitration process fully revealed all the information and forms, including
trade secrets, before the arbitrators and government representatives,” the
company said in response to the ruling on Monday.
trade secrets will do real damage to the company and all its stakeholders,
including the Israeli public, the company’s employees, shareholders and Israel’s
The leaders of Adam Teva V’Din called the court’s decision a
“The court ruled in a precedentsetting decision that there
can be no privileges associated with arbitration proceedings in which the state
is involved,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din. “Public
information belongs to the public, even more so when it comes to natural
resources like the Dead Sea, which belong to the public.”
head of Adam Teva V’Din’s economics and natural resources department, slammed
Dead Sea Works for “shamefully continuing to exploit the resources of the Dead
Sea” and for concealing information from the public about the company’s failure
to properly pay for its exploitation.
“We must welcome this courageous
court decision that today upheld the value of public information transparency as
a supreme and basic value,” Tabachnik said.
Nidal Haik, an attorney for
the Movement for Quality Government, hailed the decision as “an important
milestone in the fight for public transparency.”
“When we are dealing
with an issue with unprecedented public and economic implications – the rule is
transparency and civic engagement,” Haik said.