A new threat to the Gulf of Eilat could cause a standoff with Jordan: Jordan is aplnning to build a new port on the Jordanian side of the bay to facilitate the country’s oil from Iraq. Israel is concerned about the ecologic damage that could occur as a result of the port.
According to a report in the Hebrew-language Yedioth Aharonot daily, the health of the Gulf of Eilat improved dramatically in recent years, largely because of the rival of large fish farms in the water. In addition, the bay has benefitted from a stall to Israeli plans to extend rail service to the southern city and to expand shipping into the southern port.
But at the same time, a deal signed a year ago between the Hashemite Kingdom and Iraq to provide a natural gas pipeline to Aqaba, the Jordan city just 8 kilometers from Eilat, has raised concers amongst the Israel’s green movement, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the City of Eilat. Israeli authorities worry that a leak in the new infrastructure or a terror attack could pollute the bay and harm the tourism sector in Eilat.
Yedioth Aharonoth reported that Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi as asked Israel’s ministers of energy and transportation to apply “diplomatic pressure in order to keep the Red Sea bay clean and to protect it from possible ecological harm.” But Government officials in Jerusalem said it was questionable that in light of the security issues facing Iraq today, it is questionable whether Baghdad has the ability to pull off a project of this scale.
The foreign ministry said in a statement “The plans are currently only at the ‘idea and planning’ stage. We are maintaining contact with the Jordanians through accepted diplomatic channels, and we are raising in this context a host of issues that require cooperation.”