ט"ו לחודש האחד עשר תשע"ד
The New Year of the Trees 5774
JPost: Cabinet rejects environment minister’s appeal against Eilat rail line
Sharon Udasin, January 6, 2014
The cabinet first approved plans for the 260-kilometer line, which will stretch from Beersheba to Eilat, on October 6. The cabinet on Sunday rejected an appeal by Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz against the approval of a rail line connecting the country’s center to Eilat.
|Israel Railways Commuter Train|
|Amir Peretz (HaTenu'ah)|
“It is impossible to discuss the train route and approve it when we do not know how it will connect to its final destination,” Peretz said. “Thus far, about a million shekels have been invested in planning the project and no one is willing to say how the train will arrive at Eilat – on trucks or via a new port constructed north of Eilat.”
|---- Proposed passenger and freight rail extension from Be'er Sheva to Eilat|
Cargo would therefore have to arrive at the train station either via trucks or by means of a deepwater channel from the Gulf of Eilat northward – the latter which environmentalists argue could destroy the bay’s coral reef. In their October 6 decision, Peretz argued that ministers approved the plan without either a vote on this route or an environmental impact assessment.
Peretz’s appeal on Sunday was rejected by a majority of the ministers, with 11 voting against and five in favor, the Environment Ministry said.
In addition to Peretz, one of the other five ministers to support his appeal on Sunday was allegedly Finance Minister Yair Lapid, according to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, on the other hand, has long hailed the project as one of strategic national importance, which would not only increase tourism but would also enable the passage of goods from Asia to Israel and on to Europe.
“The project will provide the basis for a rail link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and between Eilat Port and the ports of Ashdod and Haifa, and will enable the transfer of cargo to Eilat and from there to the train, while taking advantage of the train for long distances and simultaneously reducing road congestion,” Katz said, following the the rejection of Peretz’s appeal. (cont.)
Esser Agaroth (2¢):
Like most writers in Israel, I love to laugh at MK Amire Peretz (HuTenu'ah). But, I will not be laughing this time.
I certainly have mixed feelings about this project.
In a nutshell, trains are cool. On the other hand, I would like to have more detailed information about this potential environmental impact on the Negev, the Arava, and Eilat's coral reef.
The idea of a land bridge between the Mediterranean and Rea Seas is brilliant, and will not only boost cargo transport efficiency, competition with the Suez Canal, and, of course, tourism.
On the other hand, we need to know how cargo will finally reach the port in Eilat. In the Israeli's government's original request for information [RFI] (p. 5), a pre-bidding stage in project development, it was posted that the three kilometer track from north of Eilat to the Port of Eilat was optional. Perhaps, there was a desire to get the ball rolling, and worry about that last piece later on in the process.
How does this change the status of President Shimon Peres's proposed Valley Of Peace Initiative, which already includes a "Dead Sea to the Red Sea" railway and canal along Israel's current border Jordan? Is the piece presented on the map from the aptly named Seddom (Gen. 19), to the main Be'er Sheva-Eilat Line, a replacement for Peres's Valley of Peace Initiative? Or is it the result of the initiative itself?