The Dead Sea 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Environmental advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental
Defense) and the Movement for Quality Government submitted a petition to the
High Court on Tuesday morning, calling for cancellation of the recent agreement
between the government and Israel Chemicals regarding the upcoming Dead Sea salt
harvest and company royalty charges.
The agreement, approved by the
cabinet on Sunday, stipulated that Israel Chemicals branch Dead Sea Works would
be responsible for 80 percent, or NIS 3.04 billion, of the salt harvest in the
southern basin of the Dead Sea. Meanwhile, royalties paid to the state on the
company’s potash sales would rise from 5% to 10%, with the extra money being
allocated to a Dead Sea rehabilitation fund. Environmental Protection Minister
Gilad Erdan as well as various green groups have expressed their dissatisfaction
with the agreement, which was first made privately between the finance minister
and the company.
The dual-organization backed petition to the High Court
argues that the deal made with Israel Chemicals is “disproportionate” and that
the low royalty fees “violate principles of distributive justice” as well as the
interests of the general public. The petition also charged that the agreement
occurred without transparency and without public debate, according to Adam Teva
Charging the finance ministry with “misleading the public,” the
petition says the company will continue to reap enormous profits while the
public receives little gain.
“It is impossible that the government’s
reckless conduct will pass without public and legal criticism, and we are sure
that the High Court will review the petition with serious consideration,” said
Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha.
Bracha argued that the
agreement took place in “the dark” and that the government has failed to perform
its duties properly.
“The movement expects that the government will
protect the interests of the public and our natural resources,” added Zeruiah
Medad-Luzon, legal adviser to the Movement for Quality Government. “The binding
obligation made with the proprietors of the ‘salt harvest’ with regards to the
[royalties] that are transferred into public coffers – hurts the public
Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.