(photo credit: courtesy)
After years of government inaction, MKs will attempt to create an ad-hoc government authority tasked with clearing the country’s minefields, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) announced Tuesday.
Hanegbi told The Jerusalem Post that he would personally commit to filing a bill to establish such an authority, by the first week of the Knesset’s summer session.
Hangebi held a public meeting of the usually closed-door committee earlier in the day in an effort to raise awareness of the need to clear the approximately 40,000 land mines – placed mostly in the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the Arava – that the Defense Ministry said were no longer needed for security reasons.
Hanegbi decided to hold a series of hearings on the issue following the injury of two young children who unwittingly entered a snowy minefield in the Golan Heights. One of the two siblings, 11-year-old Daniel Yuval, who lost his leg when the mine exploded, came to the committee to testify about his experience.
“I want to say one thing,” Yuval told the MKs. “We don’t need the mines at all, because it is a place where people go on holiday. They needed the mines 40 years ago, but now nobody uses them.”
After listening to testimony from local government representatives, mine-clearing experts, the IDF and the Defense Ministry, all of the MKs present complained that the issue had been pushed to the sidelines for too long. Ten years ago, noted MK Nahman Shai (Kadima), the State Comptroller’s Office released a report on the minefields, complaining that no single government agency held responsibility for clearing them, and no specific budget had been allocated for the time-consuming process.
Hanegbi proposed that an ad-hoc committee be established to coordinate
the project both with Israeli bodies and with international anti-mine
NGOs, and to manage the funds allocated for the project.
is a problem that has been addressed for years solely on the level of
rhetoric,” complained Hanegbi. “But after what happened to Daniel, I
decided that it was time for action.”Hangebi promised there would be
further, more technical meetings in his committee regarding the
mine-clearing process, which he said was a long one, but not one
requiring an “astronomical budget.”