Wearing black bathing suits and covered in black skin paint, a group of
activists took to several Tel Aviv beaches on Saturday, in attempt to convince
the public that the government is unprepared to handle the mishaps associated
with marine gas and oil drilling.
From the environmental organization
Zalul, the activists were on Tel Aviv’s beaches warning bathers that there is no
proper emergency equipment or personnel, no separation of powers and no
sufficient insurance for potentially catastrophic events that could occur at sea
during gas and oil drilling.
The government, they claimed, is failing to
protect the sea from spills, and is therefore endangering not only the waters
themselves but the economy and security of Israel as well.
moved on Saturday from Mezizim Beach to Bugrashov, Jerusalem, Banana and Manta
Ray beaches, all the while spreading their messages and marking bathers’ backs
with black handprints.
Over the course of the month, they plan to do the
same at beaches in other cities along the coast, the organization
“The economic significance of an oil spill off the coast of Israel
would be enormous – it would not be possible to desalinate water or produce
electricity, maritime trade would stop and tourism would be hit,” said Maya
Jacobs, CEO of Zalul. “A spillage would also have security implications, because
even the navy’s activities would be limited, and in a case in which a spill
would cross neighboring countries’ borders, the implications would become
Members of Zalul recently sent a letter to Energy and
Water Minister Silvan Shalom, detailing some of these points, particularly
criticizing the Petroleum Law of 1952 for lacking any instructive segment on
protecting the sea from drilling. The letter slammed the ministry for performing
the jobs of both promoting the drilling industry as well as protecting the sea
from that very industry – a detail that Zalul deems to be a conflict of
In addition, the organization stressed that licensing and
supervisory laws of the State of Israel do not apply in Israel’s Exclusive
Economic Zone in the Mediterranean, the area in which most of the drilling
Noble Energy, a Houstonbased firm that is the largest stakeholder
in the Tamar and Leviathan gas exploration projects, has stressed that despite
the lack of legislation in the Exclusive Economic Zone, the company is adhering
to all safety protocols for drilling approved by the US
Meanwhile, the Energy and Water Ministry recently published
updated environmental information for offshore drilling, emphasizing that the
ministry “requires the preparation of environmental documentation that includes
a program for monitoring the marine environment.”
The ministry features
all of these surveys and other reports from the developers on its
Nonetheless, members of Zalul demand that further action be
“Given the potential for great destruction in the event of a
marine disaster, our concern is that he who would eventually suffer would be the
citizens of Israel, who would be required to pay the price for lack of
preparedness and for galloping uncontrolled toward oil exploration,” Jacobs
In response to the specific event on Saturday, the Energy and Water Ministry stressed that the authority over and the responsibility for treating oil contamination in the sea is in the hands of the Environmental Protection Ministry. Therefore, the ministry explained, "Zalul has no argument in this regard."
The activities under the auspices of the Energy and Water Ministry relate to the engineering aspects of preventing failures and accidents that could potentially result in contamination from gas and oil, the office said. To accomplish this goal, the ministry assesses, explores and performs regular reviews of the engineering mechanisms being employed in the drilling – ensuring that all systems are operating in the safest possible manner, the ministry added.
Developers must prepare emergency plans in accordance with ministry protocols as a condition of beginning drilling, and the companies are required to purchase insurance to cover damage in an amount equivalent to five times the cost of the drilling.
"The Energy and Water Ministry works to create a proper balance between the need to develop Israel's energy resources and promote energy independence with the necessary regulatory supervision for oil and gas drilling including environmental issues." the ministry said, noting that all work is conducted in close cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry. "[Zalul's] claims about drilling ignore that the main danger of sea pollution from oil is due to other sources, among them the fear of marine accidents of oil transport tankers in the Mediterranean Sea."