Regev vows to save Palmahim Beach

Saving Palmahim Beach from resort-village plans, promoting national park must remain a top priority, MK Miri Regev determines.

May 28, 2013 22:55
3 minute read.
Palmahim Beach

Palmahim Beach 370. (photo credit: SPNI)

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 Monday.

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 Palmahim.

“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.

In 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 ago.

Chairman of the Gan Raveh Regional Council, Shlomo Elimelech, agreed with Nitzan and said that the council views the project as suitable for Palmahim.

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.

Crowds 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.

While 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.”

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