Dead Sea 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Barely a week after the Dead Sea failed to make the list of winners in the New 7
Wonders competition, the cabinet rejected a bill that would provide for its
rehabilitation and protection in an 8-7 vote on Sunday.
has chosen to stand on the sides of the factories and has failed in safeguarding
the Dead Sea,” said Amit Bracha, director of the Israel Union for Environmental
Defense (Adam Teva V’Din), whose group was responsible for drafting the
Though written by members of Adam Teva V’Din, the bill in question
had originally been submitted to the Knesset by MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who
called the proposed plan “historic” and gathered the official support of
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov
and 11 other Knesset members. Among the main principles of the bill were
provisions to preserve the Dead Sea and its surrounding natural resources,
maintain the waters for future generations, curb plunging water levels in the
northern region of the sea and create a new management system that would provide
for reasonable amounts of mineral extraction while protecting biodiversity,
according to its text.
“Thanks to the incisiveness of the environmental
protection minister, who filed an appeal against the government decision, the
proposed bill will be up for discussion again in another two weeks, and we hope
that the government, which chose to side today with the factories instead of
implementing real action that would save the Dead Sea, will chance its stance,”
Bracha said in a statement.
The bill included specific measures to give
the environmental protection minister more control on the management of the Dead
Sea region, as well as established a national plan to reinstate some of the lost
water from the northern basin by way of the Lower Jordan River, the amount of
which would be determined by the water situation in Israel, according to Adam
Meanwhile, the law would limit infrastructural development in
the Dead Sea region’s protected areas, like Ein Gedi, would impose an additional
annual levy on Dead Sea Works for any operations conducted in the northern basin
and would have the power to impose new environmental regulations on a renewal of
the Dead Sea Works tender.
“It is easy to SMS for the good of the Dead
Sea, but it is much harder to vote in reality for it,” Henin said, expressing
his disappointment with the decision.
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“We must not miss the moment –
because the Dead Sea is really dying out before our eyes. Only a comprehensive
deal, as our proposed bill suggests, can stop the rapid deterioration and begin
to reverse this direction.”
Although the cabinet blocked this bill from
passing until its probable rehearing in two weeks from now, the ministers did
approve two other Dead Sea-related measures during the same Sunday meeting, this
time focusing on the southern basin only. Proposed by MK Moshe Matalon (Israel
Beiteinu), these two laws authorize a “full salt harvest” in the southern basin
in order to prevent rise of water levels there, as well as an inflation of
royalties on Dead Sea Works, which will be directed to a special fund dedicated
to the Dead Sea’s rehabilitation, according to a statement from
The bills stipulate that 90 percent of the cost of the salt
harvest will fall in the hands of Dead Sea Works, while the Finance Ministry
will be responsible for the remaining 10%.
“I welcome the decision of the
cabinet, which understood the immediate need for the rapid rehabilitation of the
Dead Sea area and its development as a gem of tourism and the environment
alike,” Matalon said.
“The Dead Sea is a first-rate asset and public
resource for the people of Israel, and as such, we are performing our mission to
return it this way in the near future.”
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