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On World Oceans Day, green groups go to Knesset to protest UAE oil deal

Organizations warn that massive environmental disaster may result from secretive plan by Israel state company and binational consortium to channel Gulf oil to Europe via Israel

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

Environmental activists mark World Oceans Day on June 8, 2021, by protesting at the Knesset against an agreement to allow the transfer of Gulf oil to Europe using Israel as a landbridge. (Twitter)
Environmental activists mark World Oceans Day on June 8, 2021, by protesting at the Knesset against an agreement to allow the transfer of Gulf oil to Europe using Israel as a landbridge. (Twitter)

Environmental organizations marched to the Knesset on Tuesday to mark World Oceans Day and demand that the incoming government halt an oil deal with the United Arab Emirates that they warn may cause a massive environmental disaster.

In a show of force, all of the main green organizations united to protest the deal, highlighting it as a major threat to Israel’s seas, which also face a myriad of challenges from natural gas drilling in the Mediterranean, seawater desalination and overfishing.

The deal between the secretive state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company and an Israeli-UAE consortium agreed to unload Gulf oil in Eilat, on Israel’s southern tip, channel it overland through pipes built in the 1960s to Ashkelon on the southern Mediterranean coast, and reload it onto tankers bound for Europe.

Protests have been held all over the country in recent months — not least because of the risk of an oil leak to Eilat’s world-famous coral reefs. But, other than opposition expressed by the environmental protection minister, there has been no government reaction whatsoever and several massive tankers from the Gulf have already docked in Eilat to unload.

Three organizations have petitioned the High Court in connection with the deal.

A blanket of secrecy has covered the EAPC’s agreement and activities, despite the fact that the company has been responsible for a slew of oil leaks, among them Israel’s worst environmental disaster at the Evrona nature reserve in 2014.

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