Saving Palmahim Beach from resort-village plans and instead promoting a national
park must remain a top priority, MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) determined on
Regev, chairwoman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment
Committee, hosted a discussion in her committee that day in order to provide a
snapshot of the continually tense situation on the shores of
“We must stop the program for a resort village at Palmahim
Beach and instead promote the plan for a national park so that the citizens of
Israel can enjoy the beach,” she said.
The fate of Palmahim Beach has
been a controversial issue since 2004, when developers first signed an agreement
to build a hotel on the site, and environmentalists responded in fury about the
impact the plan would have on the rare flora and fauna of the region.
2008, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) joined in the
fight, followed by then-environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan, who
brought the issue to the attention of the government in 2010. With Erdan’s push
as well as a state comptroller’s report in 2009 criticizing the project, the
government then decided to reevaluate the plans.
This January, the Israel
Nature and Parks Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry submitted a
detailed plan to the Southern District Committee for Planning and Building’s
steering board for transforming the beach area into a national park and nature
reserve. In February, the Central District Committee decided that it would
consider the transformation if the National Council for Planning and Building
agreed to rezone the land.
Following this decision, the developers Maoz
Daniel and the Evelon Group brought a case against the committee regarding their
inability to construct the resort to the Central District Court, but the court
postponed making any decision until July.
Presently, the relevant
government bodies and the developers are undergoing a mediation process to
determine what would be a proper compensation amount for failing to allow the
project to go on as planned.
“We have great beaches and we must maintain
them,” Regev said at the committee meeting. “There is no reason to have to go
abroad in order to enjoy beaches.”
Regev stressed that she would like “to
see Israeli beaches open like those in Hawaii, with everything clear and blue,
with animals and a natural environment.”
In response, Eran Nitzan, senior
deputy director-general of the Tourism Ministry, said that if the resort plans
are cancelled, it will be difficult to convince hotel developers to plan
projects in Israel in the future. Citing the Tama-13 for the Mediterranean
(Partial Master Plan for Mediterranean beaches) of 1983, Nitzan explained that
the resort village would be fitting for the area.
To this, Regev slammed
the government for operating according to programs written 30 years
Chairman of the Gan Raveh Regional Council, Shlomo Elimelech, agreed
with Nitzan and said that the council views the project as suitable for
From the developers’ point of view, representative Pini Malcha
reiterated that the resort-village plans also include service facilities and
recreation rooms for members of the public.
With such a great investment
on the part of the developers, Malcha expressed disappointment on the intent to
halt the plans by government and environmental groups.
On the other hand,
a representative from the Defense Ministry, Col. Emmanuel Atiya, said his
ministry supports a national park on the land. An army base is situated just
across the street from where the resort village would be located.
of people gather all the time for bathing at Palmahim, and Yuval Peled, director
of planning and development at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA),
said he hoped that the national park would be approved soon.
supporting transforming the area into park land, Regev criticized the INPA for
charging a NIS 30 fee for entrance to the public Palmahim Beach, arguing that
park officials must validate the legality of this fee.
Dana and Adi
Lustig, the sisters behind the initial grassroots-activism campaign to save
Palmahim, spoke at the committee meeting and said they were both pleased at how
well the public has been represented in this struggle.
“We salute Dana
and Adi and social tools like Facebook that are used to save the coast,” agreed
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz). “This is one of the rare instances that citizens
have proven that you can create change.”