YERUSHALAYIM – In a heated discussion, the Knesset Interior Committee on Wednesday authorized the restoration of fluoride to Israel’s water supply. The hearing was the first of two, with a second vote likely to follow the second hearing, which will take place within the coming month. If the MKs on the Committee approve the measure again, fluoride will be restored to Israel’s water supply within weeks.

Fluoride use was discontinued in Israel in 2014, with MKs and health officials divided over the benefits of fluoride – or the opposite. According to studies by the Health Ministry, fluoride use in Israel has reduced tooth decay over the years by as much as 29 percent – and the recent removal of fluoride has caused tooth decay levels to rise again. Several MKs cited those statistics, with MK Zouhar Bahloul (Zionist Camp) saying that fluoride use benefitted the poor more than anyone. “This is a very complicated matter, but anything that can promote dental health, especially among those who cannot afford care, is welcome.”

But the price for that health benefit is too great, said MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) – who promoted the removal of fluoride from Israel’s water during her tenure as health minister. “We cannot force people to consume fluoride via the country’s water supply, just as we do not force them to receive inoculations.” Nearly all countries in Europe, she added, had removed fluoride from their water supply over concerns that the chemical could cause numerous health problems, among them cancer.

A report in Haaretz quoted officials of the Water Authority as being “very opposed” to restoring fluoride, claiming that forced consumption of the chemical via the water supply was undemocratic, as well as questionable from a health perspective.