A woman and a girl sit in front of the Mediterranean at the beach in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Environmental groups are up in arms ahead of a Knesset vote that could pave the way for expanded construction at beaches all along the Mediterranean coast.
On Monday, the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee is slated to vote on a proposal to send legislation to the plenum for second and third (final) readings that would alter sections of the National Master Plan (TAMA) 1.
The most controversial changes in the bill, originally proposed by the Tourism Ministry, would define hotels as “national infrastructure” and allow construction within 100 meters of the water. The legislation would also place approval for beach-side construction under the authority of a planning and building committee in the Finance Ministry, instead of under Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Environmental groups are worried that this will allow construction plans to get approval faster than is currently possible.
Dov Greenblatt, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said that if the legislation becomes law, it could give developers a “fast pass” to build hotels and housing at beaches and “sensitive nature sites” around the country.
Inbar Margolis, from environmental NGO Green Course, said that in addition to the “serious environmental damage” that would come with expanded beach-side construction, the measure could result in the privatization of public beaches and encroachment on public beach space to the point where it becomes unusable.
She said the legislation would allow for “uncontrolled construction” and hamper efforts to carry out proper ecological and archeological assessments ahead of construction because building plans would be approved much faster.
Green Course is organizing a protest outside Kahlon’s home in Haifa on Friday morning.