Sketch of plans for the Timna Hotels complex.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) has demanded that the
government cancel a grant of at least NIS 75 million from the public coffers to
the developer of the Timna Hotels complex near Eilat for failure to meet the
terms of the grant.
In a letter to the Investment Center in the Industry,
Trade and Labor Ministry, on Sunday night, which was revealed Monday afternoon,
IUED lawyers contended that the developer would not be able to adhere to the
terms of the grant and therefore it should be canceled.
the terms of the grant through a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this
year, IUED learned that the developer was to have secured building permits for
the site near Eilat by the end of 2009 and must secure the financing by the end
of 2010. IUED contended that the developer had failed to obtain building permits
and was almost surely not going to be able to obtain all of the requisite
financing by the end of the year. Therefore, IUED wrote, the grant should be
revoked and returned to the public coffers.
IUED cited NIS 75m. as the
amount of the grant based on media reports, but noted that its own assumption
was that the grant was higher. While the grant has not been paid to the
developer, it has been set aside for him.
Moreover, the District Planning
Committee is set to return in the coming days with what is expected to be a
significantly revised plan for the 200-dunam planned hotel complex, conference
center and artificial river through the Sasgoon Valley.
That is likely to
change the nature of the project even more, IUED added.
Even if the
Investment Center has decided to extend the deadlines for fulfilling the terms
of the grant, it should still be canceled, IUED demanded.
hotel complex has been the target of a concerted IUED and local residents’
campaign for over two years because they fear the project will cause irreparable
damage to the area’s desert ecosystem.
In 2008, as a result of a suit
launched by IUED, the court ordered the district planning committee to take a
second look at the plans because the initial planning process had been faulty.
The committee is expected to return with their assessment in the near
“The state, via the Investment Center, decided to transfer to the
private developer tens of millions of shekels out of the public coffers for a
project that is anti-environmental and disputed,” IEUD lawyer Assaf Rozenblum
“Today, it is clear to everyone that the developer has not met
the requirements for the grant and the regulations of the Tourism Ministry and
the time has come to cancel the grant, return the money, as much as possible, to
the public coffers, and to allocate the respectable amount of funds which have
been set aside for this purpose to other purposes and other parties, in
accordance with the public interest,” he said.
The Industry, Trade and
Labor Ministry responded Tuesday, “The Timna Hotels Projects of the Igra Group
has approval which is contingent upon receiving building permits and as long as
there are no permits, then the group cannot utilize it.
The approval was
for a period of two years which ends in the near future.
2010, the topic of hotels is handled by the Tourism Ministry and therefore, in
this issue as well, it is up to them to provide answers.”
Ministry said, “We have not yet received IUED’s letter and when it arrives we
will evaluate it.
“In this matter, like all projects the ministry is
involved with, the ministry is evaluating and following the progress of the
project. In the coming weeks, once the situation assessment has been completed, the ministry will decide on its policy.”