(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
After two months without an environmental protection minister, green groups seemed to be happy with the announcement that Ze’ev Elkin will be taking on the role.
The position has been vacant ever since the former minister, Avi Gabbay, resigned on May 31. Gabbay cited “political reasons,” following the appointment of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister, as well as frustration with the Leviathan natural-gas reservoir’s framework, which he accused of being developed with a lack of knowledge and a breadth of private interests.
In statements welcoming Elkin’s selection for the role, environmental groups emphasized the importance of the role and the power that he will have.
Etti Altman, the founder and spokeswoman for Let Animals Live, referring to Elkin as “Dear Ze’ev,” said, “The future of the country has been placed in your hands.” Whoever is responsible for the environment is also responsible for lives, both human and animal, she added.
Altman said she believes Elkin “will be a partner and will help to improve everyone’s lives.” She also called on the ministry to pay further attention to protecting animals as part of their initiatives and suggested a name change – “Wildlife and Environmental Protection Ministry.”
A statement from Greenpeace Israel said the environmental protection minister is the most influential ministerial role. The group wished Elkin success and called on him to “use the weight of his position to positively influence” a number of legislative decisions that are in the works. “Israel is among the most polluted OECD countries and Elkin has the power to turn it around to one of sustainability.”
Student environmental NGO Green Course also welcomed Elkin and said the group expects him to “fiercely confront the dangers” of allowing further factory expansion in the Haifa Bay area. Among the most pressing issues are those of air pollution, lack of renewable energy and plans to permit increased development along the nation’s coast.
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“We hope that with Elkin at the helm, we will see a strong proponent for renewable energy in Israel and significant advancement toward solar energy,” the group said.
Elkin made aliya from Ukraine in 1990 at the age of 19. He was first elected to the Knesset in 2006 while completing his doctoral thesis at Hebrew University on Jews who lived under Islamic rule during the Middle Ages. Up until May 31, he served as immigration and absorption minister. He lives with his family in Kfar Eldad in Gush Etzion.
Joining him at the ministry will be Yaron Mazuz as deputy environmental protection minister. He is from the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Bialik and could help the ministry as it grapples with Haifa Bay’s serious pollution problem.
Before entering the Knesset with the Likud in 2015, he spent six years as mayor of Kiryat Bialik, which was named as one of the Haifa area’s disease “hot spots” due to pollution.
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