Knesset panel grants extra month of secrecy on oil pipeline company; Finance Ministry sought 4 years

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

The Europe Asia Pipeline Company's oil boom in Eilat, designed to catch any potential oil spill before it leaks more broadly into the sea. (Courtesy EAPC)
The Europe Asia Pipeline Company's oil boom in Eilat, designed to catch any potential oil spill before it leaks more broadly into the sea. (Courtesy EAPC)

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee rejects a Finance Ministry proposal to extend by four years secrecy regulations for a controversial state-owned oil infrastructure conglomerate.

Instead the committee, chaired by Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, grants a one-month extension of the regulations. It remains unclear what will happen next.

More than 380 objections were lodged against the Finance Ministry request. Just over a year ago, the same committee refused to approve a request for a five-year extension, greenlighting a single additional year.

The Europe Asia Pipeline Company — formerly known as the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company — is the best-known of three state companies established by Israel decades ago in a secret partnership with Iran under the shah. It has been operating since 1968.

Until the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the severing of bilateral ties, Israel quietly picked up Iranian oil in Eilat on the Red Sea and transported it overland to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean, from where it could be shipped to Europe. Some of the oil was also used by Israel.

Today, Israel still uses its overland pipes to transport oil between Europe and the Far East. The EAPC has drawn fire for what many environmentalists see as a poor record.

In 2014, it was responsible for Israel’s biggest environmental disaster. Some five million liters of crude oil spilled when a pipeline belonging to the EAPC ruptured, causing significant environmental damage to the Arava desert and Evrona Nature Reserve in the south of the country.

Because of the supposed need for secrecy, the Finance Ministry refuses to explain why the extension of the secrecy regulations is necessary. A spokesperson says:  “Due to the confidentiality of the subject, it is not possible to respond.”

The EAPC would not comment.

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