Netanyahu Dead Sea 311.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu toured the Dead Sea region on Monday morning
in order to evaluate first-hand the impact of the flooding problem that could
potentially threaten the hotels and infrastructure in the southern section, as a
continuation of discussions he has held over the past few weeks, his office
announced in the afternoon.
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The flooding would be caused by a rising
water level of about 200 millimeters per year in the southern Pool #5, as the
Dead Sea Works company has been perpetually pumping in water in order to
maintain operational efficiency as it harvests minerals from its evaporation
ponds, Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Jacob Blaustein
Institutes for Desert Research had explained to The Jerusalem Post in
At the end of that month – and after the publication of a report
co-authored by Tal – the Tourism and Environmental Protection Ministries had
announced that they would recommend harvesting the 20 million tons of salt in
the southern sea as the solution to the dangerously high water levels
In response, Netanyahu organized a team, chaired by Finance
Ministry Budget Director Udi Nisan and Accountant General Michal Abadi, to
review different methods of financing this preferred solution within the next 21
days, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“The Government has come to save
the Dead Sea and it is also obligated to save its tourism industry and scenic
beauty as well,” Netanyahu said in a statement following the
“Previous governments talked about this but my government is doing
We will try to reach a solution through dialogue with the Dead
Sea Works, but if not, we will act with all the means – including legal – at our
Joining Netanyahu on the Dead Sea tour were Tourism Minister
Stas Meseznikov, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Finance Minister
Yuval Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Justice Minister Yaakov
The Prime Minister said that he hoped it would be possible to
begin work on the salt extraction within a few weeks, in an effort “to save this
global natural resource,” according to his media adviser. Netanyahu had
originally been presented with three alternative solutions – harvesting the
salt, creating a lagoon for the hotels or relocated the businesses to another
Environmental groups praised Netanyahu’s visit to the Dead Sea as
well as his probable support for the salt harvesting solution but expressed some
additional requests to the prime minister.
“The Dead Sea harvest is only
a partial solution to the environmental damage caused by the Dead Sea Works
plants,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of the Israel Union for
Environmental Defense (Adam Teva v’Din) in a statement.
that the Dead Sea Works company must bear the brunt of the costs and the harvest
must not harm the nearby Tze’elim Stream, and also stressed that private
companies also must be prohibited from establishing an additional evaporation
pond – Pool #6 – in the northern Dead Sea.
The Society for the Protection
of Nature called the salt harvesting option “the only possibility that will
allow for a balance” among Dead Sea Works operations, hotels and nature, while
cross border environmental organization Friends of the Earth Middle East also
lauded the prime minister’s support.
“This is the only solution that is
sustainable and that will preserve the hotels in the long run. Now it rests upon
the Treasury to stand against the false campaign of Dead Sea Works and not give
in to the pressure of the property owners, who are trying to evade
responsibility for the damage they caused,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israel director
of the group, in a statement.
“Therefore, and according to the ‘polluter
pays’ principle, it is necessary to charge the full cost of the salt harvest to
During his tour, the prime minister also encouraged Israelis
to vote for the Dead Sea in the finals of the New 7 Wonders of Nature
Competition, which concludes in November 2011 and pits the sea against 27 other
sites across the world, his office said in a second statement.
addition to logging on to www.new7wonders.com, voters can cast their ballots by
sending an SMS to 224 with the words “Dead Sea” in Hebrew, English or Arabic,
according to the statement.