(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel’s first pilot project for mass land mine clearance is likely to begin in
another six months, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
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Although the powerful committee advanced a landmark
bill to establish a national authority for land mine clearance, activists
complained that the legislation fell short of its original purpose.
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held its final meeting to complete and
approve the format of the bill, at the end of which, MKs voted unanimously to
advance the legislation to its final readings on the house floor.
co-sponsors representing every faction in the legislature, its passage is more
or less assured. The second and third readings of the bill are expected to be
held in the next two weeks.
The legislation forms the groundwork for the
establishment of a National Land Mine Clearance Authority, that will be under
the auspices of the Defense Ministry and guaranteed a NIS 27 million annual
budget. The legislation also enables the authority to expand its land mine
clearance by soliciting foreign donations.
The authority will initially
draw up a multi-year plan to prioritize the clearance of Israel’s numerous mine
fields, but donors will be able to request that their funds be directed toward
specific projects that are deemed to reflect significant public
Potential “special cases” include areas near holy and
archaeological sites, particularly in the Jordan Valley.
officials said the first pilot project to clear minefields is expected to be
launched in another six months, but did not say which site would be selected for
Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima), who assumed the leadership role on the
legislation after its original sponsor, Tzachi Hanegbi, had to leave the
Knesset, said he was assured that the bill would pass easily.
must continue to work quickly, because it would be especially tragic if any more
people were killed or injured after we already have the legislation in place,”
The establishment of such an authority, he said, “has an
important declarative value, particularly in light of the current geopolitical
The former finance minister also noted that clearing land
mines will help tourism, benefit the environment, allow for improved
infrastructures and allow local governments to expand their
Despite Bar-On’s enthusiasm, Dhyan Or, the Israel director
of international anti-land mine NGO Roots of Peace, expressed concern that the
legislation fell short of its original goals.
mine-clearance experts had recommended that Israel follow the international
practice of establishing a civilian mineclearing authority, the government
agency established by the new legislation will be what Or described as
Furthermore, Or said, the legislation does not place a
sufficient emphasis on the concept of “humanitarian mine clearance as opposed to
military mine clearance.”
Until now, Israel’s mine clearance activities
have been carried out by the IDF’s Engineering Corps, which has cleared specific
mine fields for military purposes.
Or explained that although “the
Engineering Corps has done a good job at what it was meant to do, the procedures
for humanitarian clearance as well as the degree of certainty required for
having cleared a minefield are different.”
Although Or acknowledged that
no mine fields can be defined as 100% cleared, the current international mine
action standards mandate that a minefield be considered cleared with 99.7%
Any lower number, Or said, will not only reduce civilian
confidence in the clearance activities, but will also deter potential overseas
donor organizations, which do not provide funding for mine clearance projects
that fail to meet international standards and practices for humanitarian
Furthermore, the Israeli legislation does not give the
authority a mandate to clear unexploded ordinance from areas that are not
defined as mine fields. In most countries, said Or, unexploded ordinance is
included within land mine clearance legislation.
Only Monday, a Beduin
teenager was killed in the Negev when military ordinance exploded as he tended