Panel dallying on plan to pay for bailout of Dead Sea hotels
The water level of the Dead Sea rises annually due to salt deposited on bottom during extraction of minerals by Dead Sea Works; it is believed that within a few years the water will flood the hotels.
The committee charged with moving ahead on a plan to protect the Dead Sea hotels from flooding has missed its deadline for submitting recommendations by more than a month.
Two months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Dead Sea with five ministers to study the issue of flood risk to hotels along the southern coast. The water level rises annually due to salt deposited on the bottom during extraction of minerals by the Dead Sea Works. It is believed that within a few years the water will flood the hotels.
Netanyahu decided on the solution of collecting the salt from the bottom of the pool and moving it to the northern part of the Dead Sea. Due to the cost of the project, a few billion shekels, a team headed by the Finance Ministry was put together to submit recommendations on financing, particularly on how much of the cost the Dead Sea Works, which is controlled by the Ofer family, should bear.
Netanyahu gave the committee three weeks to come up with recommendations.
A month ago, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov told Netanyahu the committee was taking too long and warned of the increasing risk of flooding and damage to infrastructure.
Experts say that planning for moving the salt will take a long time. If it is not begun soon, the hotels themselves will have to be moved - an option Netanyahu rejected as too costly.
"The subject of the protection of the Dead Sea hotels is complex and sums required are very significant [requiring planning] in the areas of economics, engineering and legal considerations," the Prime Minister's Office responded in a statement.
The PMO said that the finance minister and the Justice Ministry have jointly asked the prime minister to extend the period of the committee's deliberations by a few weeks.
However, Erdan and Misezhnikov want the cabinet to approve the beginning of planning before the committee completes its work, and to require the Finance Ministry to formulate regulations on funding within two months. The cabinet has not yet discussed the two ministers' request.