Special Interview Ecological Problems in Israel

For the first 25 years of the existence of Israel its leaders were busy with the development of the Jewish State and gave no thought to the problems of the environment. As a result, according to Yosef Tamir, a Likud member of the Knesset, all of Israel’s rivers are filled with sewage and air pollution has begun to appear in some cities.

Tamir, who is chairman of the Knesset Committee on State Control and its subcommittee on the environment, said Israel does not have the money to clean up its polluted areas. But he said it is determined to prevent any further pollution from occurring. The Israeli legislator who has been in the United States along with his wife, Naomi, for a month on behalf of the Jewish National Fund, was interviewed in the JNF office here.

Tamir said he first became involved with the JNF when officials of Keren Kayemet testified before his subcommittee on environment two years ago. He said the KK is the one organization that has been doing the most to help improve Israel’s environment through its reforestation program and its developing recreational areas throughout Israel.

During his current tour of the United States in which he visited New York, Philadelphia Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington, Boston, Miami and Montreal in Canada, Tamir discussed environment and the JNF. He met with leading state and city officials and with federal government officials in Washington and said he explained the work of the JNF to many American leaders who had never heard of it before.

Tamir especially talked about the American Bicentennial National Park, the 4000-acre recreational center in the Judaean Hills southeast of Jerusalem which JNF is building in honor of America’s 200th anniversary. The park will be officially dedicated at a ceremony on July 4 attended by officials from the United States and Israel.

PRESSURE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT

The 61-year-old Tamir, a journalist, has long been active in Israeli public affairs. For 15 years he was secretary general of the General Zionist, now the Liberal Party. He served on the Tel Aviv City Council and has been an MK since 1965 and is one of the seven Likud managers in the Knesset.

He has long been interested in the environment and founded the Committee for the Beautification of Israel. He noted that Israel’s older leaders knew nothing about ecology and that former Premier Golda Meir had once called him in to explain the meaning of the concept.

This resulted in the improper planning of the cities with sewage being spilled into the rivers and the Mediterranean, Tamir noted. But he said there is awareness now by the government and the people that a better environment is needed to improve the quality of Israeli life. He said there are many pressure groups being formed to promote a better environment.

One pollution problem is international, that of the Mediterranean. Any tourist who swims along Israel’s beaches often finds his feet covered with tar Tamir said this is caused by the some 400 oil tankers that cross the sea. Recently Tamir was a delegate to a conference of Mediterranean countries which was called to help protect the sea. He said at this conference the Arabs were willing to work with Israel on a common problem.

WEST BANK SITUATION

Tamir was asked about reports that Keren Kayemet has been buying land in the occupied territories. “They have been doing it for 75 or 76 years.” he stressed. He explained that KK is obligated to buy any land in the Land of Israel that it is offered by a Jew or a non-Jew.

Asked about the Gush Emunim settlers at Kadum, Tamir said that while some Likud members have supported the Gush, the official position of Likud is that all settlements must conform to governmental policy. He said where Likud differs with the government is that it believes the government should approve settlements anywhere in Samaria and Judaea.

Tamir spoke at Congregation Chizuk Amuno in Baltimore a week before Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger spoke there. He said he was asked whether Kissinger could be trusted. Tamir said Kissinger’s speech in the Conservative congregation was a good statement of the American position.

He noted that when he was in Washington, Walter B. Smith, chief of the State Department’s Israel Desk, called him in for a talk. He said that Smith noted the aid Israel is getting from the U.S. and said that the U.S. wants a strong Israel because only a strong Israel would be able to negotiate with the Arabs and make the territorial concessions the U.S. felt was needed.

Tamir said he agreed with Premier Yitzhak Rabin that Israel could expect a confrontation with the U.S. over the territories as demonstrated by Smith’s remarks. Asked whether he expected the current political conflict in Israel to result in the Rabin government dissolving, Tamir gave a definite “no.” He said the next Knesset election is only a year away and no one wanted a new election before then.

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