Environment Minister Opposes Voa Transmitters in the Negev

Israel’s newly appointed minister of the environment, Yossi Sarid, announced this week that he is unequivocally opposed to the construction of Voice of America radio transmitters in the Negev.

The proposed relay transmitters, designed to beam U.S. government-controlled news programs and American propaganda into the former Soviet Union, has long been a festering issue between the United States and Israeli environmentalists opposed to the project.

Sarid, a member of the left-wing Meretz bloc, told reporters Monday: “If I, as environment minister, don’t consider the ecological interests in the area, then no one will do it for me.”

Sarid was apparently referring to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Communications Minister Moshe Shahal and Sarid’s predecessor as environment minister, Ora Namir, who all reportedly favor construction of the powerful relay station.

Namir, who held the Environment Ministry post until she took over as labor and social affairs minister two weeks ago, supported the radio project because she said it would provide employment in the area.

Environmentalists and residents in the area oppose the project, saying that electromagnetic radiation from the transmitters would harm nearby residents as well as interfere with the internal guidance systems of migratory birds passing over the region. In any case, America’s interest in building the transmitters has waned since the breakup of the former Soviet Union. The transmitters are likely to be shifted to Turkey, according to U.S. reports.

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