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Historic Measure to Remove Land Mines Passes Knesset Vote

A law that will require the clearance of all known minefields in Israel passed its second and third Knesset reading Monday.
By David Lev
First Publish: 3/15/2011, 10:14 AM / Last Update: 3/15/2011, 11:15 AM

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A law that will require the removal of all known mines in Israel passed its second and third Knesset reading Monday. The law, originally sponsored by former MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) and later by MK Roni Bar-On (Kadima), was approved by a 43-0 vote. It authorizes the Defense Ministry to set up a new department that will be responsible for clearing minefields in the Negev, Golan, and other parts of the country that the IDF had set up in the early days of the state.

The department will be given a budget of NIS 27 million, but will also be able to accept donations and grants from abroad. The UN, the US government, and several private organizations allocate funds for mine-clearing, a worldwide problem, throughout the world. The work will be undertaken by private companies specializing in land mine removal. According to the Mine-Free Israel organization, minefields have put nearly 200,000 dunams of land  around Israel off-limits.

MK Bar-on praised the Knesset's approval of the law, saying that “this is a landmark for Israel. For the first time in 63 years, Israel joins the community of nations that for many years have worked to clear unneeded mine fields. Much of the needed budget will be coming from international organizations and humanitarian groups. The cleared areas will be used to construct homes, and expand opportunities for agriculture, tourism, highways, and communities. And, of course, damage to individuals injured by exploding mines will be a thing of the past. In addition, the law will improve Israel's image in the world.”

Among those present in the Knesset plenum as the law was passed was Daniel Yuval, who was badly hurt several years ago when he entered a minefield in the Golan. Yuval, now 13, lost a leg to the mine that exploded when he inadvertently stepped on it in a snow-covered field where signs indicating that the field was mined were difficult or impossible to see. Yuval became an Israeli ambassador for the cause of land-mine removal, speaking around Israel and at international forums on the problem of land mines.