TEL AVIV (Aug. 21)
Israel’s High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction Monday halting steps toward the construction of billion dollar Voice of America radio transmitters in the Negev.
The court acted on a petition from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Arava Regional Council, which contend that the transmitters will harm the environment and disorient millions of migratory birds.
Environmentalists also claim a health hazard for humans from electromagnetic radiation.
The court order specifically forbade the National Council for Building and Planning to submit its construction plans to a government planning board for approval.
The court gave the government 45 days to explain why the plans should be presented and why the court should not nullify them entirely.
The government was also ordered to answer charges that improper pressure was brought to bear on members of the building council to influence their decision.
The government planning board approved the project last month after prodding from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
The complainants maintain the decision was reached without conducting the environmental impact studies mandated by Israel’s building and planning laws. Without such studies, they say, the building council cannot legally approve the VOA transmitters.
The United States has a special interest in the project, which was conceived during the Reagan administration as a means of reaching large areas of the Soviet Union and Central Asia with transmitters powerful enough to overcome Soviet jamming, a practice that has stopped.
Although U.S.-Soviet rivalry has abated in the past year, Washington still insists the Negev transmitters are necessary to carry programs of the government-funded VOA and Radio Liberty They broadcast in 28 languages to Eastern Europe Central Asia and Africa.