Ministers vote to extend for a further five years a veil of secrecy over the activities of a state-owned oil infrastructure conglomerate.
The order, which must be okayed by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, will continue to prevent publication of most information about the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (known today as the Europe Asia Pipeline Company), Eilat Corporation SA or Trans Asiatic Oil Ltd.
All were set up in the late 1960s as part of a quiet and now long-defunct deal between Israel and the shah’s Iran, which saw Iranian crude transported overland between Eilat on the Red Sea Coast and Ashkelon on the Mediterranean, from where it was shipped to Europe.
The deal came to end after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran has sought compensation ever since and in 2015 an arbitration panel ordered Israel to pay Tehran $1.1 billion. Israel has refused to do so, however, saying trade law forbids it from sending money to an enemy state.
Over 300 objections were filed against the secrecy move, and critics react to the extension by pointing to the EAPC’s pollution record, also charging that secrecy order was too wide and all-encompassing and did not allow any oversight of the companies’ activities.
A Justice Ministry opinion counters by saying confidentiality is important to “securing the interests of the state.”