Israel’s energy minister says a deal with partners from the United Arab Emirates to transport oil from the Gulf to Europe via Israel should be cancelled as it presents too much of an environmental risk.
Karine Elharrar’s opposition to the pipeline raises doubts about whether the Israeli government will approve the deal, one of the biggest to emerge from last year’s normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE.
The deal was signed between Israel’s state-owned Europe-Asia Pipeline Company (EAPC) and MED-RED Land Bridge, a company with Emirati and Israeli owners.
The idea was for oil to be unloaded from tankers in the Red Sea port of Eilat and transferred across Israel in an existing pipeline to the Mediterranean coast.
The companies involved say this land bridge is the shortest, most efficient and cost-effective route to transport oil from the Gulf to the West.
But environmental groups, who have petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to freeze the deal, say the influx of tankers and crude oil is a huge ecological risk.
“I am calling to cancel the EAPC agreement. It poses many risks to the Gulf of Eilat, to residents, and it does not benefit Israel’s energy market,” Elharrar said in a statement.
She said UAE officials told her the deal should be viewed as an agreement between private companies and that cancelling it “is not expected to impact ties between the countries”.
EAPC has said the new business is part of its routine operations and it met the strictest international standards. It also said the deal had geopolitical benefits.