Cancel the UAE Oil Deal

Haaretz Editorial
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A woman holds a dead sea turtle covered in tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea in Northern Israel
A woman holds a dead sea turtle covered in tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea in Northern IsraelCredit: Ariel Schalit/AP
Haaretz Editorial

The promises of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow to lead Israel into a new climate future will be evaluated through a series of long-term measures in areas that include energy production and clean transportation. But there is an important step that the cabinet can take now, an initial test to prove the seriousness of its intentions: the cancellation of the agreement between the Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (formerly the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company) and a company from the United Arab Emirates.

The contract would make it possible to increase significantly the volume of oil that is imported into Israel and to transport it through a pipeline connecting EAPC’s storage facilities in Ashkelon and Eilat, in order to export it to other countries. According to estimates, the movement of oil tankers to Eilat would be 35 times the traffic typical in recent years. A country that wants to fight global warming does not encourage the shipment of crude oil that would harm the environment. Canceling the agreement would send a clear message of a willingness to overcome the addiction to fossil fuels.

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Until the completion of the energy economy’s transition to full use of clean energies, Israel will have to import oil in the coming years, and it will provide for quite a few critical needs. The situation is entirely different when it comes to encouraging the use of this fuel for the needs of other countries, while creating serious environmental risks.

Israel and Jordan are the only countries in the world that operate oil terminals in the heart of a coral reef. Even a small oil spill could cause severe damage to the reef in the Gulf of Eilat, which is a global phenomenon due to its resistance to climate change.

The experience of recent years should service as a grave warning signal when it comes to the overland pipelines as well. In the previous decade there were two incidents of oil leakage from the pipes of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, in two important nature reserves (Nahal Zin and Evrona). The oil spill on Mediterranean beaches half a year ago was a reminder of the long-term significance of a spill near the coasts. Another grave incident is likely endanger the supply of seawater to the desalination facilities.

Israel must do its part in dealing with the climate crisis, by refraining from steps that do even more to encourage the profitability of trading in oil and investing in its production. It can do so by prohibiting an increase in transporting the oil in its domain, and discontinuing the licenses for oil exploration that are still being issued.

The process of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels is hard and involves many obstacles, but it’s worth our while to use any means that helps us to move in the right direction. Cancellation of the agreement may entail an economic price and legal difficulties, but the price of destroying the environment is far higher. 

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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