In 2015, Israel made what seemed at the time to be a largely symbolic diplomatic gesture—as did 193 other countries. It signed onto the Paris Agreement on climate change and pledged to gradually switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Because renewable energy has proven to be both expensive and unreliable, most countries are ignoring their pledges. Sweden, which last week became the latest country to back away from its Paris pledge, tacitly acknowledged the unreliability of renewables when Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson told parliament, “We need a stable energy system.”
Israel has the same economic and reliability reasons for backing away from its Paris commitment. But it has another reason that other countries do not: If it insists on large-scale development of renewables, its historically friendly and loyal Druze population threatens to go to war with it.
In support of the thousands of Druze in the Golan Heights who now threaten Israel with an intifada, Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community, affirmed, “The resistance against the construction of the turbines in the Golan Heights is justified.” He added that if the turbine construction isn’t halted, “There will be a clear and decisive response in a way that the state has not seen since its establishment.”
The Druze object to the government’s demand that they host Israel’s largest renewable energy project: A $350 million wind farm involving 38 66-story-high turbines. From the government’s perspective, the Golan Heights, with its open land and steady winds, is uniquely suited to helping Israel meet its international commitments. From the Druze’s perspective, they are being uprooted from the ancestral agricultural lands upon which their culture depends, despite their loyalty and defense of Israel through their IDF service.
The wind turbines will change the pastoral face of the Golan Heights, harming the Druze’s agricultural and tourist industries and lowering their property values. Apart from the nuisance of audible noise from wind turbines—they can hum or sound like the swishing of washing machines—audible noise can cause headaches, difficulty concentrating and sleep disturbances. Perhaps more seriously, the inaudible infrasound waves emanating from wind turbines affect internal organs and are associated with numerous pathologies—everything from mood swings and chest pains to early onset epilepsy.
For these and other reasons, wind farms are opposed by communities throughout the West and often cancelled as a result. The Druze are in good company. Moreover, environmentalists have begun opposing wind turbines, saying they cause more damage to the environment than fossil fuels.
The claim that renewables eliminate carbon dioxide emissions does not stand up to scrutiny. Renewables have a high carbon footprint because of the mining required to manufacture them. They have short lifespans and must be periodically replaced. They rely on fossil fuels for backup when they fail.
The government of Israel, bereft of either environmental or economic reasons for pursuing renewables, has but one justification: Its Paris Agreement-related commitments, which call for reliance on renewables for 30% of its electricity generation by 2030 and “net zero”—the utopian goal of virtually eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions—by 2050.
Yet according to Earth.org, every major economy—including all the G20 nations—is failing to meet its Paris Agreement obligations. Only one country—Gambia—has a credible climate plan. The Paris Agreement is being honored by almost no one.
The Druze are now forcing Israel to take a stand: Should Israel maintain the pretense that large-scale renewables are viable and thus earn brownie points from the international community? Or should it back away from the Paris Agreement and thus help protect the Israeli economy and environment and keep peace in the land?