search

UAE official: Nixing controversial oil deal won’t damage Israel ties

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

An aerial view of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company's (EAPC) oil terminal at Israel's southern Red Sea port city of Eilat, on February 9, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
An aerial view of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company's (EAPC) oil terminal at Israel's southern Red Sea port city of Eilat, on February 9, 2021. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

The government of the United Arab Emirates is not involved in a controversial oil deal to channel Gulf crude from Eilat on the Red Sea to Ashkelon on the Mediterranean, and cancellation of the deal will not in any way impact UAE-Israel relations, a senior official at the UAE Embassy in Israel tells the Times of Israel.

This contradicts a claim made to the High Court that nixing the deal — bitterly opposed by environmentalists — would damage the recently formed ties with the Gulf nation.

In a bombshell background briefing, the official confirms, “We have clarified to the Israeli government that this is not a government project. There’s very close communication at the highest level. Israel is aware that this is not an UAE government project but rather a private commercial deal.”

The official also stresses that while the signing ceremony of the original commercial memorandum of understanding between the governments on the matter took place in August during broader events celebrating the Abraham Accords, the deal itself had nothing to do with the accords themselves.

The deal is between the EAPC, a secretive company set up between Israel and Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution; MED-RED Land Bridge, jointly owned by Petromal, part of the private, Abu Dhabi-based conglomerate National Holding; and the Israeli companies AF Entrepreneurship, owned by Yona Fogel and Malachi Alper, and Lubber Line, owned by Yariv Elbaz.

The plan is opposed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, a forum of some 20 environmental organizations and scores of scientists and Eilat residents, given EAPC’s poor environmental record and numerous past leaks — it was responsible, six years ago, for the largest environmental disaster in Israel’s history — and the importance of Eilat’s coral reefs not only to the city’s tourism and employment sectors, but also globally.

In July, the EAPC told the High Court in response to a petition filed by green groups against the agreement that the threat of environmental damage is “negligible” and that cancellation of the deal could lead to “significant damage to the foreign relations of the State of Israel.”

comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed