Israel's Gantz Joins Opposition to UAE Pipeline Deal, but Bennett Will Make the Final Call

Gantz’s opposition to shipping large amounts of crude oil from the UAE through Israel bolsters the position of other opposing cabinet members, including Israel's foreign and environmental protection ministers

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
An oil tanker in Eilat, last month.
An oil tanker in Eilat, last month.Credit: Sasi Horesh
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has announced his opposition to the controversial deal with the United Arab Emirates to ship large quantities of oil through Israel, as environmentalists continue to call for the contract's cancellation.

The Europe Asia Pipeline Co. signed an agreement to transport oil from the UAE through Eilat to Israel’s Mediterranean coast. From there, it is due to be shipped to customers in Europe.

At a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, Gantz said that he would support suspending the contract until its implications are investigated further, Haaretz has learned.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, last month.

He made the remarks following a meeting with the pipeline company’s CEO, Itzik Levy, and its chairman, Erez Halfon. The decision to suspend or rescind the contract, which is strongly opposed by environmentalists, is ultimately in the hands of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But Gantz’s opposition to the contract, which would substantially boost the amount of oil transported through Israel, bolsters the position of cabinet members who have already spoken out against the deal.

After environmental groups filed a petition in the High Court of Justice in a bid to halt the agreement, the cabinet was given until next week to present the government’s position regarding the contract, which was signed during the term of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Several sources have said that Gantz’s decision was finalized after a study by the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies argued that the deal presents threats to Israeli security.

Knesset member Alon Tal of Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, who opposes the agreement due to its major environmental risks, was a key player in urging Gantz to address the issue. Four other cabinet ministers – Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg; Energy Minister Karine Elharrar; Foreign Minister Yair Lapid; and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov – have already publicly come out against it. The Finance Ministry, which oversees the government-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Co., supports the agreement. At the Knesset this week, a Foreign Ministry representative said that the diplomatic fallout that would be caused if Israel rescinded the agreement could be managed.

If the deal is implemented, the number of oil tankers arriving in Eliat would increase significantly, from a handful a year to dozens. Each such ship can hold up to 270,000 tons of oil. The amount of oil stored at EAPC’s facilities in Ashkelon prior to being loaded on tankers for shipment to Europe would also balloon.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has rejected an environmental impact survey conducted by the pipeline company, saying it failed to meet the ministry’s requirements.

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