MK Dov Henin (Hadash) submitted a bill to the Knesset on Monday morning that
outlines a plan for the future protection and rehabilitation of the Dead
Rooted in four main principles, the bill aims to preserve the Dead
Sea and its internationally treasured natural resources, maintain the salty
waters for the benefit of the next generation, curb the plunging water levels of
the northern basin and determine new terms of management for the region, which
will provide for continued reasonable extraction of minerals while protecting
the ecosystems and biodiversity, according to the text.
Supporters of the
proposed law in addition to Henin include MKs Moshe Gafni (United Torah
Judaism), Amnon Cohen (Shas), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Eitan Cabel (Labor),
David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), Orly Levy Abecassis (Yisrael Beiteinu), Zvulun
Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), Ibrahim
Sarsour (United Arab List - Ta’al) and Uri Maklev (United Torah
“If we don’t protect the Dead Sea from menacing damage
inflicted upon it daily, we will be responsible for the disappearance of this
natural wonder,” Henin said in a statement.
Within a year from the day
the law is enacted, the environmental protection minister, in consultation with
his administration, would be responsible for preparing a plan for the
restoration of water in the northern basin of the Dead Sea, according to the
bill. This plan would need to include a minimum increase of 235 million cubic
meters beyond the current allocation of water that flows from the southern
Jordan River into the Dead Sea.
Meanwhile, the minister would be able to
approve water evaporations for mineral extractions only after receiving proof
from the operator that no other technologies exist for the respective mining,
and that that operator would be responsible for the restoration of any water
eliminated in the process.
Also according the bill, the minister would
also be charged with appointing a “Council for Regional Cooperation in
Protection and Rehabilitation of the Dead Sea,” which would work with
international bodies and neighboring states. Additionally, each year the
minister would need to produce a report detailing the amounts of minerals mined
and quantities of water pumped in and out, as well as levies imposed upon those
whose work has damaged the Dead Sea.
In the southern basin, where water
levels are dangerously rising, a salt harvest will ensure that the maximum water
level in the peripheral embankment and beach of Pool 5 remains at a maximum of
389.50 meters below sea level, while inside the pool, the level rises no higher
than 390.50 meters, the bill continued.
Environmental experts called
Henin’s effort a “step in the right direction” and hoped that the government
would enact the legislation.
“Until recently, the environmental community
has had to respond to the ongoing deterioration in the conditions of the Dead
Sea in a defensive mode,” Dr. Alon Tal, head of Israel’s Green Movement and
professor at Ben-Gurion University’s Jacob Blaustein Institute of Desert
Research, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday afternoon.
“We count the
annual drop in water levels and loss in ecological integrity, hoping for greater
sensitivity by the government and the industrial powers that be at the Dead Sea
works,” continued Tal, who is currently a visiting associate professor at
Stanford University in California.
“Taking the initiative on behalf of
the public that owns this unique resource – as well as the future generations
that are being deprived of their birthright – is a step in the right direction.
It is hard to believe that this government will allow such a common-sense,
responsible approach and allow meaningful legislative progress, but just as
public pressure forced it to do ‘the right thing’ with natural gas rights, it is
time to demand accountability at the Dead Sea as well.”
Israel’s director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, agreed that while Henin’s
move is positive, these measures should have been taken much
“The campaign for votes to include the Dead Sea in the new seven
wonders should have been accompanied by a commitment from the Israeli government
for urgent corrective actions,” Bromberg told the Post.
“The demise of
the Dead Sea is happening under state license, be it Jordan River diversion in
the north or Dead Sea Works’ concession in the south, which begs the question
that the Tourism Ministry campaign is green-washing. The legislative effort by
MK Dov Henin is a step in the right direction that should have come from the
Tourism or Environment Ministries, rather than the opposition.”