(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In one of the most widely-supported pieces of legislation in Knesset history, the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee launched Monday a bill that seeks to clear all of Israel’s non-operationally necessary land mines.
Key government officials suggested that the bill, which was filed with the Knesset Secretary’s office Monday, would win the support of the government, where Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i has been fingered as the coordinator to enlist support for the bill within the government.
73 MKs – all but seven rank-and-file – signed on to the bill in advance of its presentation during a festive press conference Monday afternoon. Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that he welcomed the broad consensus, which includes MKs on the right and left, both religious and secular.
“In the Knesset, we tend to legislate important laws that help the quality of life, but there are not so many that save life – this law saves lives,” said Hanegbi.
11-year-old Daniel Yuval, whose leg was blown off three months ago when he inadvertently entered a minefield in the Golan Heights, was one of the first speakers in the meeting, during which he sat in the same seat in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak sat hours earlier when he briefed the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“When I lay in the hospital I told my father that I wanted to clear all the minefields because I don’t want it to happen to other children,” Yuval told MKs. MK after MK told the boy that he served as the motivating force behind the drafting of the new legislation.
For years, State Comptrollers’ Reports have warned of the danger of poorly marked minefields throughout Israel, particularly along the eastern and northern borders, but the Knesset has never drafted legislation providing a framework for their removal. The legislation presented Monday would mandate the establishment of a joint military-civilian authority to oversee the removal of the hundreds of thousands of mines that dot, among other locations, some of Israel’s most popular national parks.
“For 32 years I was silent,” said Dr. Maya Freund, who lost her lower
leg while hiking with friends in the Nahal Betzet nature preserve. “I
thought that it was something that had been willed from above and so I
was silent. I now understand that I cannot remain silent, that the
mines are very patient and lying silently in wait for our children.”
The current legislation has been drafted together with Survivor Corps,
a Nobel Prize-winning international organization that has overseen mine
clearance throughout the world. Survivor Corps co-founder Jerry White
told The Jerusalem Post
that the formula of creating
an independent authority tasked with mine clearance has proven
successful in many countries.
White estimates that mine removal in Israel will cost approximately $60
million dollars, but that Israel will largely be able to subsidize the
process through international donations and contributions.