AG's review of contentious beach resort may be tainted by conflict of interests, environmental groups say
State Comptroller declared that the authorization process which okayed the building of a private resort in Palmahim, one of central Israel's last unspoiled beaches.
The attorney general's office may have had a conflict of interests in its probe of an approval given to erect a private resort on an unspoiled beach near Rishon Letzion, The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V'Din) said on Friday.
A public fight has been underway for two years, spearheaded by activist Adi Lustig, against the plan for the resort on Palmahim beach, to be built by developers who won a tender for the project from the Israel Lands Administration.
The plan to build a resort with over 300 suits, has made it through various levels of the authorization process, but before it could be passed in the District Planning and Building Committee, local activists began fighting it because of the damage they say it would do to one of the last remaining unspoiled beaches in the center of the country.
After the campaign was launched, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss declared that the authorization process was flawed. He found that government bodies who supported the plan had ignored changes in the law mandating stricter preservation of beaches prohibiting construction of any kind.
On Friday, Haaretz learned that Adam Teva V'Din had intended to appeal the Civil Service Commission early next week, over the fact that Deputy Attorney General Sarit Dana, who was appointed to review the state comptroller's report, had served as the legal advisor of the planning committee which initially approved the project.
Three weeks ago, Deputy AG Dana handed in a brief legal opinion regarding the comptroller report, finding no in the Central District Planning and Building Committee's decision to okay the build.
The attorney general's office said in response that Dana had not been involved in the resort's authorization process, which took place as she was about to leave her role in the commission.
Keren Halperin-Museri, the Adam Teva V'Din's head of community and environment, said, in turn, that the "plans to erect the Palmahim resort were advanced during Dana's tenure as the committee's legal advisor."
It is that fact, Halperin-Museri said, that prompted "grave concern over Dana's dual role as both the person who authorized the decision process in the report recently submitted to the attorney general, and actively took an active part in authorizing the original plans as part of her duties in the Central District Planning and Building Committee's."
"It would be proper that whoever holds such a significant public position, such as the deputy attorney general, would disclose the fact that she had a significant role in the process she was choisen to scrutinize," Halperin-Museri added.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided to postpone its vote regarding plans to build a resort on the Palmahim Beach south of Rishon Letzion, after Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who has opposed the plan from the beginning, proposed that the cabinet halt the plans once and for all.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced concerns regarding the possible compensation the government would have to pay the contractors if indeed the authorization was withdrawn.
Adam Teva V'Din argued that Dana's review of the Palmahim authorization should not be considered by the cabinet until it was proved beyond all doubt that Dana's involvement in the issue was not a conflict of interests.