While the new Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz promised to integrate the principles of environmental and social justice in his office, new Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom pledged to improve the quality of life of Israelis as the country’s natural gas begins to flow.

Official minister switch ceremonies took place in both the Environmental Protection and Energy and Water ministries on Tuesday, in each office’s Jerusalem branch – with Amir Peretz taking the place of Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom of Uzi Landau. Both Peretz and Shalom praised their predecessors, stressing that they hoped to continue to bring about positive changes in each of their offices.

As Landau spokes of his past four years in office, he pointed to the upcoming flow of natural gas from Tamar as one of the most significant achievements in his four-year term, a process that has moved forward much quicker than expected.

“This is a savings of billions of shekels and an achievement for the Israeli economy, which will improve the quality of life of every citizen of Israel and positively influence the environment,” Landau said.

Agreeing with Landau, Shalom stressed that he would use this new influx of natural gas to reduce the cost of living for the general public and raise the standard of living significantly.

Key to this process will also be bringing natural gas to the periphery, to allow for further development there, he said.

Having already served as director-general of the ministry in the past as well as chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation, Shalom said he felt already at home in the office and prepared to move forward.

“We are heading toward a new path of economic independence,” he said.

While the natural gas influx is crucial in his eyes, so too is continuing to promote renewable energy research – to prevent relying “on just one energy source,” Shalom noted. For example, China and Russia’s heavy reliance on oil have prevented these countries from placing necessary sanctions against Iran, he argued.

Outside the energy sector – though Shalom emphasized that energy and water are very much interdependent – the new minister praised Landau for guiding Israel and making it a leader in desalination technologies.

A strong proponent of the Red Sea – Dead Sea conduit project as proposed by the World Bank, Shalom suggested that he and Landau as tourism minister could continue to work together on this program.

Encouraging Shalom to bring the country to a state of energy independence, Energy and Water Ministry Director-General Shaul Zemach praised Landau for bringing the office to a position of greater influence and for his vast contributions to advancing renewable energy, electricity conservation and natural resource protection.

“You entered the energy market during a period in which the market appeared different, and during your time as energy and water minister the energy market changed completely,” Zemach said. “It transformed to become small ship to a type of an aircraft carrier that must be led and guided correctly.”

At the Environmental Protection Ministry, discussion of transformation was also in the air.

“This ministry changed me,” said outgoing Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who is now the communications and homefront security minister. “I understand much better today what is best for the state of Israel and its people.”

Erdan noted that he remembers his previous switch ceremony into the ministry like it was yesterday, and he attributed the growth of a strong ministry “that is super-social and influences all the economy of Israel” to the vast cooperation that exists among its workers.

“In four years we have significantly reduced the environmental gaps between us and the West,” Erdan said. “Now hundreds of thousands of families have been enjoying the fruits of the green revolution, but the path to a clean and healthy environment is still long.”

Among the achievements in office that Erdan said he is most proud of were launching the recycling revolution, enacting the packaging law, saving beaches from resort takeovers, preserving open spaces, establishing a chain of metropolitan parks across the country, preventing the establishment of a coal power station in Ashkelon, expanding the ministry’s budget and increasing enforcement of environmental legislation.

“Today environmental considerations are an integral part of the decision-making in the economy and in the government,” Erdan said. “It is already clear to everyone that Israel cannot lag behind the international market, which has already learned that a correct economy is a green economy that ensures that everyone will live and benefit from a good and healthier environment.”

Going forward in his new office, Erdan committed to continuing to help the Environmental Protection Ministry in every way possible.

“Gilad arrived four years ago and he said he feels like it was yesterday,” Peretz said, following Erdan’s speech. “I arrived yesterday and I feel like I’m already here four years.”

Praising Erdan for transforming the ministry into a force that operates on behalf of the public, the new minister vowed to continue his progress and meld ideals of social and environmental justice. Peretz stressed that he has never stayed “indifferent or nonchalant” in the face of injustice and that he intends to continue to stand by the weak – citing beaches, streams and animals among the country’s weak elements.

“Together we will establish an environmental Iron Dome for future generations,” said Peretz, who had pushed forward the Iron Dome’s establishment during his years as defense minister. “All my life I have fought for social justice, but it is impossible to separate social justice from environmental justice.”

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