Extinction Rebellion blocks entrance to oil company in Ashkelon

Extinction Rebellion activists blocked the entrance to the Europe Asia Pipeline Company complex in Ashkelon on the south coast on Sunday morning, causing traffic jams before they were finally removed from the scene by police.

There was no immediate police announcement of any arrests.

Extinction Rebellion, a global movement, uses nonviolent direct action to try to persuade governments to act on the climate crisis.

Other green organizations deployed banners on road bridges and at intersections across the country over the weekend to protest the EAPC deal and call on the government to do more on climate change.

Activists were protesting a largely unpopular and secret deal signed a year ago by the state-owned company and an Israeli-Emirati consortium to use the first land pipelines to transport Gulf oil from the port of Eilat to the sea. Red, in the south of Israel, towards the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon.

The EAPC has a poor environmental record. Among other things, it was responsible for Israel’s worst environmental disaster when an oil pipeline burst and sent some 5 million liters (1.32 million US gallons) of crude oil to the Evrona Nature Reserve in the Arava Desert in 2014.

Seven years later, the nature of the reserve shows no signs of recovery and its ecosystem could collapse if ways are not found to clean up the soil and allow acacia seeds – which are home to a multitude of species – to start germinating again, according to the findings of a five-year surveillance study published last month.

Opponents of the deal are worried about potential oil leaks into the Gulf of Eilat that could devastate the coral reefs and tourist economy of the city of Eilat. Leaks near Ashkelon would threaten the operation of the main desalination facilities.

It is not clear who, if any, in government saw the details of the MOU.

Widespread opposition from scientists, environmental groups, residents of Eilat and many other cities, as well as environmental protection and energy ministers, has pushed the government to revise the deal, although that little is known about the discussions.

Oil seeps through desert bushes in Evrona Nature Reserve, December 7, 2014 (Environmental Protection Ministry spokesperson / King Talbi)

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv on Saturday, protesters gathered outside the homes of Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and Transport Minister Meirav Michaeli, calling on their ministries to vote against a transport plan on October 19. which, if approved, will pave the way for massive construction. project on Reches Lavan (White Ridge), a pastoral hill with a popular natural spring just west of Jerusalem.

In March, an appeal subcommittee of the National Planning Committee rejected a plan approved in 2020 by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee for the construction of two road tunnels to be constructed at the Ora junction, where four roads existing meet.

The plan for a multi-level transportation system aims to relieve current traffic, allowing for the addition of a light rail line and serving the increased number of passenger cars that will accompany the construction of Reches Lavan and possibly other communities to be built in the Jerusalem Hills in the future.

Artist’s impression of the new Reches Lavan district and the proposed two-speed transport system. (YouTube screenshot)

A two-tier discussion of the issue will take place by the National Planning Committee on Tuesday morning, after which government ministry officials will vote on whether or not to give it the green light.

Opponents see Reches Lavan’s plan as the start of construction on many of Jerusalem’s green hills, which are dotted with natural springs and are an important green lung for the city’s residents.

Much of the development planned for White Ridge is tied to a national program to build 1.5 million homes nationwide by 2040, including 297,000 in the Jerusalem district, to keep pace with population growth.

Most of the units are supposed to come online via city renewal, in which old buildings in the city center are demolished and much taller buildings are constructed in their place.

The Jerusalem district office of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel studied 4,000 plans and determined that this goal could be achieved by the capital without digging into the local countryside.

The problem is that replacing slums in disadvantaged neighborhoods with new construction offers limited benefits – and because the government has so far been unwilling to provide financial incentives for developers (in the form of grants, subsidies or tax breaks), it instead offers what it calls “additional ground” on which such developers can make more money.

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