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Now that plans to construct artificial islands off the coast of Tel Aviv are moving ahead, environmentalists are calling for action to prevent them from advancing without extensive preliminary research.
Yael Dori, representing environmental watchdog Adam Teva V'din, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the decision two weeks ago to pass the policy paper on the project had gone ahead without the research required by a National Planning Committee decision in 2000.
According to Dori, Shamay Assif, head of Building and Planning for the Interior Ministry and head of the committee planning the islands, had implied to the National Planning Committee that the research would be cut short because of high costs and time constraints.
"We say, 'Let's examine the research before we make any decision,' but instead, [Assif] says only, 'Let's not wait for the research to end, because it takes too much time and too much money,'" explained Dori.
The policy paper - which Adam Teva V'din sees as positive, despite its going forward without the necessary research - does not recommend large islands that could support a new international airport to replace Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport. Larger islands would greatly interrupt sedimentary flow and pose a threat to the ecosystem and tourism that currently thrive on the Tel Aviv coast. Smaller islands would pose less of a risk, but would not be environmentally ideal, either.
However, Dori said, Assif "made the paper only the background for future decisions," undermining its legitimacy.
Dori also charged that there had been an unusual amount of pressure from the Interior Ministry. Arye Bar, a high-ranking ministry official, attended nearly all of the full-day meetings on the subject - an effort that affected how the members of the committee would vote.
In the future, the committee will close its doors to representatives of the public. "[Assif] decided that a new committee will be formed of government officials from the various ministries involved," said Dori, clarifying that though the Environmental Protection Ministry will have a representative on the committee, no public-sector organizations will be granted access.
"It gives us less power to criticize the committee's decisions, because we're not inside," she said.