The Dead Sea Works 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Deputy Attorney-General Avi Licht issued a recommendation on Sunday to the
Finance Ministry stressing the need to raise the royalty fees that the Dead Sea
Works company pays.
Green groups praised the move as a step forward in
achieving public interests.
Licht’s report follows a May study
commissioned by the Tourism Ministry’s Dead Sea Preservation Government Company,
which advocated dredging all 20 million tons of salt from the southern Dead Sea
Basin as the most effective method of combating the dangerously rising water
level. The study, however, estimated that dredging the salt over the next 20
years would require about NIS 6.5 billion, a sum that both the authors and green
groups thought should mostly be paid by Dead Sea Works, as its mineral
evaporation process is causing the rising water level.
At the end of May,
the tourism and environmental protection ministers also endorsed the study’s
“Our legal stance is that Dead Sea Works must bear the most
significant part of the costs of the harvest,” Licht wrote in his
The ever-rising water level in Pool 5 and the ongoing mineral
consumption, Licht continued, “causes damage to public interests and is expected
to cause future damage to the tourism industry and to additional environmental
Therefore, because its production methods are causing the
problems, it is most suitable that Dead Sea Works bear the brunt of the costs of
the salt harvesting and beach protection, according to Licht.
Works has a permit to operate in the basin until 2030, and the company estimated
that until this point, the salt harvest would cost about NIS 3.76 billion;
however, the benefit to the company of having a harvested sea would be
equivalent to about NIS 2.5 billion, the report estimated.
negotiations between the government and Dead Sea Works to achieve a suitable
deal do not go smoothly, Licht suggested that lawmakers step in to determine how
the costs will be distributed to achieve the “long-term vision” of harvesting
“The recommendation of the report of the deputy attorney- general,
Avi Licht, is an important step in the right direction,” Gidon Bromberg, Israel
director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), said in a statement. “Dead
Sea Works earned millions at the expense of public natural resources that we
know as the Dead Sea, and it is responsible for the loss of 150 million cubic
meters per year. Therefore, in accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle,
the plant must bear 100 percent of the salt harvesting expenses.
Treasury must stand firm against the pressures of captains of industry who are
trying to evade responsibility for damage they caused and are generating further
damage that will yield them profits – in the form of the construction of Pool
Bromberg was referring to the potential establishment of an
additional mineral evaporation pool for Dead Sea Works, an idea in which the
company has expressed interest.
Amit Bracha, executive director of the
Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva v’Din), agreed that any
negotiations must not included a policy that would allow the company to set up
an additional mineral evaporation pond.
Following the release of the
deputy attorney-general’s legal opinion, it is necessary to ensure that the
government does not slacken its efforts until the recommendation is fully
implemented and until the royalties are raised, Bracha added.
Adam Teva v’Din had made similar recommendations to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s Trajtenberg Committee, arguing that additional income generated by
charging Dead Sea Works more could be given to public sectors in
“In these days of social protest, it is inconceivable to have
public funds finance the salt harvest while the main beneficiaries of the
harvest are the [processing] plants,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad
Erdan said in a statement.
“I welcome the opinions of the deputy
attorneygeneral, which are anchored in important environmental principles, such
as: ‘polluter pays’ and ‘extended manufacturer guarantee.’”