Israelis and tourists at Tel Aviv beach 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)
The government must take more responsibility for the well-being of the country’s
seashores and beaches, leaders of the Knesset Social-Environmental Lobby agreed
The leaders, MKs Dov Henin (Hadash) and Nitzan Horowitz
(Meretz) were speaking at a special session of the Knesset Social-Environmental
Lobby held that afternoon during the annual Knesset Environment Day, held in
honor of the United Nations Environment Program’s World Environment
Threats to marine and coastal environments, as well as the risks
associated with gas and oil drillings, were the prominent topics in the session,
led by Henin and Horowitz as well as the leaders of Life and Environment, the
umbrella group for Israel’s environmental organizations.
In addition to
the participation of various environmental organizations, the session also
featured addresses from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and stop-ins from MKs Moshe Gafni
(United Torah Judaism), Shlomo Molla (Kadima), Hanna Sweid (Hadash) and Eitan
“The current law is not sufficient for protecting Israel’s
coasts and the sea,” Rivlin said, referring to the Coastal Environment Law of
As far as oil and gas drilling in the Mediterranean goes, Henin
lamented the fact that “there is no plan for dealing with the risks of drilling
at sea,” echoing the concerns of many environmental organizations in the room –
particularly those of Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental
Henin said that “the government will bear responsibility for
the disasters that are likely to come.”
Regarding the sanctity of the
nation’s coasts, Henin argued that the government must take a regulated approach
toward combating construction on Israel’s sands.
“We must adopt a
systematic solution so that we don’t need to launch a public struggle every
time, on each tower that was approved prior to the Coastal Environment Law and
is now being built on the beach,” he said.
Horowitz agreed, adding that
“Israel’s coastal environment is very sensitive and very threatened” and
stressing that for years most of the country’s authorities looked at the
nation’s beaches as “garbage bins.”
“Some of them continue to behave this
way today, and everyone is paying a heavy price,” he said.
photographs of various beaches that have illegal decks, restaurants and other
facilities built upon them, as well as maps picturing all of Israel’s coastal
drilling sites, Rani Amir, the head of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s
Marine and Coastal Division, explained that Israel really only has a “limited
ability to cope with serious pollution that is likely to occur in the marine
environment,” and called for increased manpower to be able to handle such
In addition to the special session on marine
environments, throughout the day on Tuesday, Knesset committees discussed
various different environmental subjects, with Gafni’s Finance Committee looking
into the environmental behavior of corporations and MK Alex Miller’s (Yisrael
Beytenu) Education Committee talking about environmental education
programs. Meanwhile, MK Amnon Cohen’s (Shas) Environment and Internal
Affairs Committee discussed hunting and wildlife abuse, while MK Zvulun Orlev’s
(Habayit Hayehudi) Child Rights Committee spokes about the effects of
environmental hazards on children, and MK Ronit Tirosh’s (Kadima) Science and
Technology Committee discussed biological diseases.
In the middle of the
day, Life and Environment hosted a screening of the French movie Home, narrated
in Hebrew by Moshe Ivgy and shown in cooperation with the organization
EcoCinema. During the late afternoon, members of the Israeli delegation,
led by Erdan, to the Rio+20 Earth Summit met in order to plan for their
deployment to Brazil in the next couple weeks.
Naor Yerushalmi, CEO of
Life and Environment, acknowledged that there has been a clear change for the
better in public discourses and government efforts on environmental issues,
which he largely attributes to efforts from Erdan and specific Knesset members.
However, he noted, many environmental challenges lie ahead, particularly as
certain government offices fail to internalize the seriousness of environmental