Court rejects greens' petition against IDF Negev training center

The Defense Ministry hailed the Beersheba District Court's decision on Thursday to allow the continued construction of the new IDF training center in the Negev as a victory for the government which had decided to strengthen the Negev by moving IDF bases there. The ministry said that it would continue to work in conjunction with environmentalists to ensure that the close proximity of the new base to Ramat Hovav would not pose a threat to the thousands of soldiers planned to be stationed there. "We call on the green groups to continue working with us so we can use each other and particularly the defense establishment to create a better environment in the Negev for both soldiers and civilians," a ministry statement read, while stressing that soldiers would not be stationed in the new base until it was 100 percent certain that they were not at risk. The Israel Union for Environmental Defense said it would submit an appeal in the coming days. Environmental groups strongly oppose construction of the new training base which in effect will be a small city. Ramat Hovav houses 17 chemical companies, constituting over half of all chemical companies in Israel. According to the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, the plant produces at least nine major air pollutants, several of which are classified by the government as poisons. Green Course held a protest as the court was handing down its decision, calling on local authority heads not to stick their heads in the sand and to deal with Ramat Hovav's pollution. In her ruling, the judge stated that the Defense Ministry's inspection of pollution levels in the area, and the report commissioned from a Dutch company assessing Ramat Hovav, were sufficient. Therefore there was no need to wait for the results of a further examination by the Health Ministry. The report will be publicized for the first time at a Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting early next week.