netanyahu - Itzik Ben Malki - November 29 2010
The Netanyahu family’s home in Caesarea. Photo by Itzik Ben Malki
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The Shin Bet security service has decided to drop its plan to pave a road from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's house in Caesarea to the coastal highway via a planned nature reserve.

The decision to forgo the plan was confirmed by the Prime Minister's Office to a local news outlet, but reasons for the change in position were not spelled out.

"We believe that from the outset there was no need to plan a road that would go through the reserve and damage the natural setting rather than finding other alternatives, especially since it involves a temporary road," the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said in a reactionary statement. "We are pleased that in light of the public pressure, it was decided to remove the matter from the agenda, and we commend the security establishment for this."

The proposal to pave the road arouse strong public protest due to the damage that it was expected to cause to the natural setting. The Shin Bet unit that protects the prime minister approached the Israel Nature and Parks Authority several months ago for its views on the plan for the road, which would have given motorcades easier access to and from Netanyahu's Caesarea home.

The authority was contacted because a portion of the road would have gone through a tract of land slated to become a nature reserve.

Area residents and environmental groups said the planned nature reserve would protect one of the last remnants of the sand dunes that had been part of the area's landscape and would provide a continuous stretch of sand from the coastal highway to the sea. The expanse is still home to a rich variety of plants and animals. There had been concern the paving of the access road and the work necessary would cause irreversible damage to the site.

The SPNI and area residents organized a protest against the road about two months ago that attracted several hundred participants calling for the plans to be scrapped. The SPNI also added the site to its annual list of threatened open spaces.

The parks authority also posed a number of questions to the Shin Bet about the plan. Since then, the parks authority said it had not heard from Shin Bet on the matter.