Israel has backed out of a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to build an oil link through Eilat, in a move that Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg said in a statement is a “huge and dramatic environmental achievement.”

Zandberg added that the nation will not become “a bridge to polluting oil in an era of climate crisis”.

The deal was initially struck in October 2020 between Israel’s Europe Asia Pipeline and Co (EAPC) and UAE-based MED-RED Land Bridge, proposing to establish a link between the Red Sea city of Eilat and the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon in what the partners called a “land bridge”.

Exact financial and volume details of the deal were not disclosed, though the agreement  would reportedly see the use of the EAPC’s existing Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, which has a capacity of 600,000 barrels of oil per day.

The project has faced significant backlash from environmentalists given the fact that Eilat plays host to a fragile coral reef, with the Israeli Environmental Protection Agency pushing for an attitude of ‘zero additional risk’ to the region. An oil spill from a Libyan ship in February this year that washed onto Israeli shores has also heightened fears over environmental damage from industries reliant on fossil fuels.

Activists lobbied for Israel’s Supreme Court to block the deal and Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel spoke out against the project in April this year. In response to the Supreme Court petition, the government said it would allow the Environmental Protection Ministry to act as it saw fit, without any anticipated government intervention. The deal was then put on ice in the summer before its cancellation this week.

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The deal was one of the largest struck in the bid to normalize ties between Israel and the UAE – an initiative known as the Abraham Accords – with EAPC Chairman Erez Halfon saying the deal was of “high importance to the Israeli market both economically and strategically”.