Historic Legislation Paves Way to a Mine-Free Israel

Photo cc-by: Tracy HunterPhoto cc-by: Tracy Hunter

“Last year, when 12-year-old landmine survivor Daniel Yuval said he wanted to do something to rid Israel of landmines, even he didn’t expect his call to action to move a mountain of security. But Daniel’s wounded innocence prevailed and Israel’s Ministry of Defense is now poised to clear the country of deadly military debris.”
Jerry White, a leader in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace. From an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post today.

Yesterday, 14 March 2011, the Israeli Knesset overwhelmingly supported a bill to clear non-operational landmines across the country, which passed its final reading. The newly enacted law outlines the establishment of a National Mine Action Authority, which will operate under the auspice of the Defense Ministry, and will secures a designated annual state budget for this purpose.

“Mine-Free Israel” – a civil society campaign coordinated by Roots of Peace International in cooperation with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Center of Regional Councils and the Council for a Beautiful Israel – had succeeded in the past year to elicit wide support for the clearing of landmines, paving the way to this landmark legislation.

The precise number of operational and non-operational landmines remains unknown, but the overall estimate is as high as 1 million (more details in the report: “Explosive Litter: Status Report on Minefields in Israel and the Palestinian Authority”). Israeli landmines are centered mostly along the 1949-1967 borderlines, and are sprawled across more than 197,000 dunam in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Although Israel is not a signatory to the Ottowa Mine-Ban Treaty of 1997, the new bill is written in accordance with the treaty. A delegation from the US State Department in charge of humanitarian mine action is visiting Israel this week in order to assess Israel’s needs in clearing out landmines.

While efforts to clear landmines have been underway for decades, the wide publicity surrounding the injury of 12-year-old Daniel Yuval highlighted this issue. Yuval lost his leg to a mine explosion in the Golan Heights last year while on a family trip, and has since lobbied for the removal of landmines. He will attend today’s Knesset vote alongside Jerry White, Chair of Roots of Peace International, who lost his leg to a mine explosion in the Golan Heights 27 years ago. White was a leader in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Ehud Uziel, Director of ACRI’s International Humanitarian Law Project, said today: “Hundreds of people have lost lives and limbs because of the wide use of landmines in Israel. We are thrilled that at long last Israel is taking a huge step in the right direction to make this earth safer and mine-free.”

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Categories: International Humanitarian Law

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