Betzet Beach protest.
(photo credit: Dov Greenblatt/SPNI)
Following widespread appeals from government ministers, green groups and the
general public, the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) has decided to cancel
plans to construct a vacation village and commercial center on Betzet Beach in
Pleas from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias led newly appointed ILA Director
Benzi Lieberman to enter negotiations on Tuesday with the companies that had won
the bid to construct the village in November 2007 – Tzioni Herzl Entrepreneurs
and Macpel Industries – to stop work in the Betzet area, a statement from the
The land encompasses a region of about 200 dunams and was
slated to house a resort and an artificial lake, but the companies had not yet
begun construction, according to the ILA. Since the parties successfully reached
an agreement that includes financial compensation for the companies, all work on
the project will stop shortly, the ILA statement added.
“We praise the
new director of the ILA, Mr. Benzi Lieberman, on the apparent adjustment with
regard to the vacation village on Betzet Beach,” a statement from the Society
for the Protection of Nature (SPNI) said. “Lieberman listened to the wishes of
the public and acted in favor of the public good over the interests of entrepreneurs.”
Lieberman, formerly the
chairman of the Judea and Samaria Regional Council, was appointed director of
the Israel Lands Authority at the end of September.
On October 16, more
than 1,000 people took to the Betzet coast in a protest against the future
vacation village orchestrated by SPNI along with the Working Committee of
Western Galilee residents. SPNI had contended that constructing these commercial
venues would fragment beach areas and disrupt open space, while also causing
noise, light and air pollution.
Hand-in-hand, the protesters created a
one-kilometer human wave “to illustrate the extent of the public protest against
the establishment of vacation villages,” SPNI had said.
“It is necessary
to praise the director of the Israel Lands Administration on this first bold and
historic decision,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of the Israel Union for
“We hope that this decision heralds a trend of
changes in the conduct of the ILA and the protection of open spaces, and the
coastal environment in Israel.”
Bracha likewise emphasized how he hoped
Lieberman would face future challenges with such grace – particularly stressing
the importance of protecting the Kinneret coast, maintaining the Samar sand
dunes and canceling sand mining.
“We hope that Mr. Benzi Lieberman will
stick to the environmental-public line and will be concerned with preventing the
marketing of new tenders by virtue of old plans that are not in line with the