Palmahim Beach in the summer .
(photo credit: DOV GREENBLAT/SPNI)
With the issue of Palmahim Beach’s status as a national park versus a resort complex about to resurface in the country’s planning institutions this Sunday, environmental organizations are demanding financial compensation for the developer to ensure the spot’s ecological sanctity.
Although the Central District Committee for Planning and Building determined in December 2014 that the entire beach, located just south of Rishon Lezion, would be recognized as a national park, a panel within that same committee is slated on Sunday to hear the objections of the developers who were originally slated to build a resort on the grounds. In a joint letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday, a number of green groups long involved in the struggle demanded that the government properly compensate the developer.
“We turn to you, as the minister of finance of the State of Israel, in an appeal concerning the entire public, to take the actions necessary to save Palmahim Beach – property that belongs to the public, which the public is entitled to and which should be preserved,” the letter said.
Among the signatories of the appeal were the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) and Adi Lustig, one of two sisters behind the initial grassroots campaign to save the beach.
Public protests to save the beach from becoming a planned holiday village rallied the country’s biggest green groups and then-environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan in the summer of 2010, causing the government to reconsider plans to construct the resort complex. However, prior to the government decision, the project’s developers had already purchased the land necessary for the resort.
In December 2014, the Central District Committee for Planning and Building decided to approve an Israel Nature and Parks Authority plan to transform the entire beach area into national park land, rejecting the original program to establish the resort there. Five months later, in May 2015, the Committee for the Protection of the Coastal Environment made a similar decision.
Nonetheless, the government has yet to provide the developers with the compensation necessary for their losses.
“The actions required are indemnification funding and/or the provision of an immediate indemnification letter, along with a discussion to be held on Sunday, January 10, on objections to recognizing Palmahim Beach as a national park,” the letter from the environmental groups said. “Without this, it will not be possible to revoke the development rights for the resort’s establishment, which the state granted in the past to the developers.”
Stressing that Palmahim Beach is one of only two expansive, non-urban beaches left in the country, the environmentalists described the site’s importance as “incalculable” in an increasingly crowded country.
“The quality open space that it provides to the public, together with the values of heritage, nature and landscape within it, have transformed [the beach] into a social and environmental asset of the highest level,” the groups said.