Court nixes Ikea's planned Rishon branch

The decision voids the company's NIS 400m. purchase of the lot and marks a huge victory for the opponents of the project.

ikea strike 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy )
ikea strike 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Home-furnishings giant Ikea was forced this week to shelve its construction of a Rishon Lezion branch following the decision of Tel Aviv District Court Judge Nurit Ahituv that cancelled a rezoning permit that would have allowed the opening of a new store in the Ma'ayan Soreq area. Ahituv ruled that Rishon Lezion discriminated in Ikea's favor when the city's mayor granted the store an extraordinary permit, which had allowed for the reclassification of the Ma'ayan Soreq area as "commercial" instead of "industrial." The decision voids the company's NIS 400 million purchase of the lot and marks a huge victory for the opponents of the Ikea project, which include a varied coalition of some 80 environmental protection groups, local Rishon merchants and residents of nearby moshavim, the small farming communities in the area. "We welcome the decision of the court and the effort that Judge Ahituv has made to void the construction plans of Ikea," Gil Yodfit, director of the For the Sake of Israel's Ecology organization, told The Jerusalem Post. "The land sold to Ikea was practically given to them for free and we call upon the police and the prosecutor's office to investigate how this deal almost happened." Ikea couldn't be reached for comment. A lawyer representing the ecology group said Ikea was surprised at the ruling, and planned to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. For the Sake of Israel's Ecology, centered in Rishon Lezion, is a non-profit organization that fights for open spaces in and around the municipality. "Here is Ikea, which claims that it really is a "green" company, about to build in an area that would greatly harm the local ecosystem," Yodfit said. The decision also represents a serious setback to Matthew Bronfman and Shalom Fisher, the Ikea franchisees in Israel. Sweden-based Ikea currently has only one branch in Israel, located in Netanya. In September, the Tel Aviv Court had voided the permits granted to Ikea, however, Ikea petitioned that ruling. In her decision, this week, Judge Ahituv said Rishon Lezion "acted in breach of the rule of law."