'Biggest environmental wrongdoer in Israel': IDF accused of being major polluter

Reuters / Baz Ratner
The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry has accused the Israel Defense Forces of being the country’s top polluter. An official said the army lives by its own rules and is even “irritated” when asked to conform to environmental regulations.

“The IDF today is the biggest environmental wrongdoer in Israel,” Yitzhak Ben-David, the ministry’s deputy director-general for enforcement, said at a Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Reuters / Amir Cohen

“When it departs from a training field, the field looks as if it has undergone a revolution. They leave tremendous amounts of waste. The army does not carry out enforcement, and is even irritated by such enforcement,” he added, saying that the army was getting away with violations which would result in punishments, if these occurred in civil society.

The dressing down from as the environmental committee was discussing a 2011 Environmental Enforcement Law and its failure to be properly implemented. The committee’s chairman, David Amsalem, said that it is high time that the IDF start to pull their weight and put into place the regulations that were implemented four years ago.

“The law was enacted in 2011, mandating the establishment of regulations within 90 days,” he said. “Four years have passed – why was this not executed? Is the army above the law? It should operate like all systems.”

Reuters / Baz Ratner

Eyal Ezra, who oversees environmental protection for the IDF, said there was a desire on the part of the Israeli army to cooperate. He also added that the army would take greater care to make sure that infringements would be reported.

“In portions of our infrastructure, we are in breakdown maintenance [mode]... due to the infrastructural legacy left for us,” he added, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The news will have come as an embarrassment for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which has been trying to clean up its act.

In March, the Israeli army launched a new initiative entitled, ‘Environmental Defense Forces: Commanders Take Responsibility for Their Surroundings’, which would encourage IDF soldiers not to pollute their surroundings. It was set up in conjunction with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).

"We see the contact with the IDF as an important, long-term target for educational work and for teaching [soldiers and officers] to know and love the country,” the SPNI Executive Director Kosha (Moshe) Pakman said, as cited by the Times of Israel.

READ MORE: UN urges Israel to repay Lebanon $850mn in oil spill damages

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly almost unanimously approved a resolution urging Israel to pay Lebanon some $850 million in compensation to cover the clean-up cost of an oil spill in 2006.

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The assembly decision follows the assessment report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which stipulates the value of damage to be $856.4 million. Now the Assembly is asking Israel to provide “prompt and adequate compensation.”