Cablegate: Goi Seeks Environmental Law Assistance.
DE RUEHTV #1809/01 2261107
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141107Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3063
INFO RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 2580
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6386
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1703
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
UNCLAS TEL AVIV 001809
STATE FOR OES/ENV, EEB/EPPD AND NEA/IPA
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL - METCALF
USDA FOR FAS/ICD/RSED
AMMAN FOR ESTH - BHALLA
PARIS FOR USOECD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ENRG TBIO IS
SUBJECT: GOI SEEKS ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ASSISTANCE.
Ref: (A)08 Tel Aviv 1845 (B)08 Tel Aviv 2586
Action request: See para 9.
1. (SBU) Summary. Post Econ Counselor received a written request
from GOI Ministry for Environmental Protection (MEP) Director
General for assistance in upgrading Israel's environmental law
enforcement capabilities. New civil law procedures could reinforce
existing mechanisms which rely chiefly on administrative orders and,
failing that, cumbersome criminal prosecution. MEP believes civil
proceedings would offer a wider array of enforcement tools and
result in greater compliance with recently upgraded environmental
protection legislation. The DG also offered a survey of priority
MEP issues and challenges facing the new Israeli government.
Comment: This request comes in the context of Israeli efforts to
upgrade environmental management to comply with OECD standards for
membership; post recommends the USG respond to the request favorably
and quickly. End Summary.
Looking for New Alternatives
2. (SBU) Until recently, Israel has pursued environmental protection
with relatively few laws and few enforcement mechanisms. Last
year's spate of new, stronger laws (ref A) made headlines because it
evidenced the maturing of Israel's numerous, competing environmental
NGOs into a lobby of groups able to achieve legislative and
political objectives. The new legislation includes laws installing
a Clean Air Act, stronger sanctions on corporate polluters,
strengthened individual accountability, and a "polluter pays"
principle. Enforcement has only been through administrative orders,
however, which MEP officials concede have resulted in mixed
compliance. The alternative has been criminal indictments for
environmental offenses, which have been pursued infrequently by the
ministry, and in which courts have been reticent to find criminal
intent in private sector pollution, much less in the pollution
caused by public utilities and agencies. (Some NGOs claim Israel's
military (IDF) is one of the greatest polluters in the country.)
The lethargy of the criminal court structure also offered little
deterrence to industrial polluters.
3. (SBU) On July 7, post EconCouns and ESTH officer met with Yossi
Inbar, the recently confirmed Director General of the MEP for a
update on the new government's objectives on environmental issues.
Inbar used the occasion to present a written request from the
Ministry's legal advisor to the USG for a workshop on how to
implement civil environmental proceedings as a means of pursuing
compliance. This prospective training would clarify issues such as
determining civil versus criminal pursuit, establishing the burden
of proof, judicial review, and handling out-of-court settlements,
among other matters. Post will fax the paper received to the
4. (SBU) Embassy officers welcomed the request, pointing out that
legal seminars on environmental law enforcement have been offered in
many countries by US officials from EPA, Justice and other agencies,
and this request would be conveyed to Washington. When asked about
timing for this training, Inbar noted Israel's endeavors to upgrade
its environmental performance closer to that of the countries in the
OECD, implying the near term (see para 8).
The Objectives for the Government
5. (SBU) Inbar sketched out the plans he and new MEP Minister Gilad
Erdan have for the coming years. MEP is one ofthe youngest (20
years old), smallest (scarcely 500 employees), and least funded
agencies of the Israeli government. (Note: Its FY2009 budget is
only 200 million Israeli Shekels (USD 50 million) and the projection
for FY2010 is only slightly higher.) Despite these handicaps, the
ministry has extensive responsibilities, including environmental law
enforcement, land and maritime ecology surveillance, supervision of
hazardous materials at the industrial level, and oversight of all
national parklands through the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
These tasks are now augmented by new legislation that requires more
enforcement action. Minister Erdan told the press that implementing
the new Clean Air Act by 2011 will require 80 million NIS in
supplemental funding and additional hiring authority.
6. (U) Aside from fighting for more funding for enforcement, the
Ministry plans to tighten regulation on packaging, with the goal of
recycling 70 percent of domestic use glass and 60 percent of
plastics. Recycling throughout Israel should be improved, he
observed, but this will require assisting the local authorities who
have responsibility for solid waste issues in their communities.
Inbar complimented the U.S. private sector for responding to the
needs of American municipalities, and asked whether US companies
(e.g. BFI, Waste Management, etc.) would be interested in working in
7. (SBU) Inbar noted that MEP is also the chief interlocutor for the
GOI on Climate Change, and is responsible for issuing air quality
permits. MEP has inventoried 150 point sources of emissions, and
Inbar said Israel is preparing for CO2 emissions limits following
IPCC recommendations. (Note: Although a signatory of the Kyoto
Protocol, Israel has had no emissions reduction target because it is
listed as a Schedule II country. End note.) Public education will
be key, he noted, in coping with the costs and constraints this may
8. (SBU) One clear objective Inbar noted was to prepare Israel for
OECD membership. Inbar said that one of Israel's weakest points in
its OECD accession discussions has been at the Environmental Policy
Committee. After two visits to Israel by an EPC team earlier this
year, he anticipates an October EPC meeting in Paris will help
settle some issues.
9. (SBU) Action request: Post understands the MEP request for legal
advising to be part of Israel's efforts to improve its environmental
law enforcement as part of its OECD accession criteria. In this
light, we believe assistance in the near term (coming Autumn/Winter)
would be most helpful to the GOI. The GOI request also builds on
the intent expressed during the visit to Israel of then-EPA
Administrator Stephen Johnson last October, when both countries said
they hope to deepen cooperation on environmental issues (Ref B).
Post recommends the Department, in coordination with EPA and
Justice, respond favorably to this request for legal training.