Controversial hotel bill passes final hurdle before heading to Knesset

Fears abound as well that many of the additional hotels will be built along the country's beaches and prime coastal real estate.

At the beach (photo credit: RONI ALFRANDRI)
At the beach
(photo credit: RONI ALFRANDRI)
The controversial bill “Levin Law” was approved Wednesday by the Knesset’s Interior Committee and will now head for its first reading in the Knesset plenum.
The bill, spearheaded by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, aims to simplify the approval of hotel building permits in order to lower hotel prices.
It gives hotels “national infrastructure” status and allows approval for new hotels to go through the Finance Ministry’s National Planning and Building Committee instead of the Finance Minister. Furthermore, it permits new and existing hotels to allocate 20 percent of their property for private housing units.
Fears abound as well that many of the additional hotels will be built along the country’s beaches and prime coastal real estate, though committee head MK David Amsalem denied it. “This [bill] is not about building along the sea,” he said. “It’s a lie.”
Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran and Joint List MK Dov Henin both submitted revisions to the plan that would not have allowed the private housing allocation.
However, the revisions were ultimately rejected by committee members.
Henin called the legislation “one of the most dangerous laws that ever made it to the Knesset,” adding that it is an affront to democracy.
“This law sets a precedent for a private business to become national infrastructure,” he said.
Cohen Paran slammed the bill for being a mistake that will affect future generations and government policy for years to come.
The bill is part of Tama (Master Plan) 35, which is meant to guide the country’s spatial development for the next two decades, balancing development needs with the preservation of open spaces.
Knesset guards threw activist Elad Hochman, from student environmental NGO Green Course, out of the meeting after an exchange of words became especially heated. As he was being carried out, Hochman said: “I’m turning to you Knesset members and asking you to not vote for this item because it endangers our beaches.”
On the group’s Facebook page, they posted the video with an ominous message: “Say goodbye to the beach as you know it.”