When the beach is in the developer's way
Instead of adhering to the master plan, which forbids construction on the narrow strip around the Kinneret, the authorities are bypassing the ban, flouting the law in addition to the environmental damage they are expected to cause.
The Kinneret is a unique natural resource in the Israeli landscape, whose preservation is at constant odds with pressures from the water economy, tourism and real-estate development.
The Kinneret's beaches are 55 kilometers long. To protect them the government has set a number of legislative and administrative regulations. The national master plan stipulates building a path around the lake, 50 meters from the water line, for pedestrians and cyclists. Inside Tiberias a promenade will be built along the path's route. Construction has been banned in the area earmarked for the path, to ensure a buffer between the buildings and the beach.
But the master plan clashed with a plan - promoted by real-estate developer Moti Zisser with the municipality's encouragement - to build a hotel on Tiberias' northern beach.
The hotel plan was drawn up in the 1990s, when awareness of preserving the beach environment was less developed. The plan stipulated draining part of the lake, thus moving the water line back to make room for the real-estate project and enable building the hotel close to the present beach line.
Work to push the water line back began this week, as Eli Ashkenazi reports in Haaretz today, by pouring dirt into the Kinneret. The building plan calls for draining 15 dunams (just under four acres ) of the lake, thus removing the obstacles to building the hotel.
Tiberias' municipality is very enthusiastic about the project, singing its praises as something that will create work places in the city and hailing the promenade to be built there as "a fascinating meeting point between the public and the Kinneret." They are downplaying the environmental damage with the excuse that it's not about drying the water but "pushing it back."
Again it transpires that environmental preservation in Israel is a low priority compared to development pressures. The local authority, eager to show large projects and benefit from the taxes, backs developers and treats environmental protection as a nuisance delaying construction work. If the beach is in the real-estate developer's way, it moves the beach.
Instead of adhering to the master plan, which forbids construction on the narrow strip around the Kinneret, the authorities are bypassing the ban, flouting the law in addition to the environmental damage they are expected to cause. The message coming from Tiberias promotes hooliganism toward nature and the landscape - instead of protecting them for future generations.