Existing building plans for beachside construction will now be subject to reexamination, after the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs approved an amendment to the 2004 Law for the Protection of the Coastal Environment on Sunday.

“I am happy that I succeeded in convincing my colleagues to support the law,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan. “Very little space is left on the beach areas for the enjoyment of the public, and there is no reason to continue to block them with concrete monsters. Even countries that enjoy much more extensive coasts don’t authorize private building on their beaches.”

The amendment corrects a loophole in the original law, calling for a reexamination of beach-building plans approved before the creation of that law but still not yet executed. If the Committee to Save the Coastal Environmental (the ValHof) – also established in 2004 alongside the law – determines that the site of the scheduled plans constitutes a natural resource, the developer will need to move the project to a location slightly farther from the shore, according to the new amendment.

Last Tuesday, environmental activists had staged an “emergency march” from Tel Aviv City Hall to Bograshov Beach, in support of the amendment’s passage.

Submitted by MK Dov Henin (Hadash) and signed by 17 additional lawmakers, the text of the amendment was drafted by environmental advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din – Israel Union for Environmental Defense and the legal clinic at Bar-Ilan University.

Henin called the approval “a significant step in protecting the coast of Israel,” thanking his partners from the Beaches Forum and Adam Teva V’Din, as well as other environmental organizations and the general public, for the recent surge in support for the bill.

“The passage of the coastal protection law is a significant step in protecting Israel’s coasts from initiatives that threaten to erode the few beaches we have left,” said Henin, who is the chairman of the Knesset’s Joint Committee for Health and Environment. “Instead of struggling each time separately – in Palmahim, in Betzet, in Nahsholim, in Dor, in Nitzanim and in many other cases – the law will produce a widespread, professional and just solution.”

Prior to the amendment’s passage, Adam Teva V’Din had said in a statement: “It is necessary to put an end legislatively to old plans that will lead to irreversible environmental damage on the shores of our country.”

“In recent years we have seen the widespread phenomenon of apartments, vacation villages and marinas being built on the most beautiful slices of beach in Israel, blocking public access to the beach and causing damage to unique and pristine beaches,” the organization’s executive director, Amit Bracha wrote. “A portion of the plans were approved more than 20 years ago, during a period when the importance of preserving open spaces and beaches was not yet recognized.”

Bracha therefore stressed that the government has a “responsibility to repair the damages of the past.” The organization praised Sunday’s approval, and asked that government officials continue to support the amendment as it goes through the Knesset.

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