Plan to Safeguard Israel’s Crumbling Cliffs Still Over a Year Away

Without a master plan, local authorities cannot issue building permits to protect the various beaches along Israel's coastline where cliffs are in danger of collapse.

A number of cliffs along Israel’s coastline are collapsing, but the government plan to protect them will not be approved for at least another year, Haaretz has learned. Local authorities are unable to protect their beaches from collapsing cliffs in the absence of a master plan.

About two years ago, the government decided to draft a master plan to protect sandstone coastal cliffs, several of which are in danger of collapse due to erosion caused by winds, waves and rain.

As a result of, among other things, constructing marinas and other sea structures that block the sand flow to the shore, the cliffs are expected to recede by dozens of meters in the coming years.

The government decided to set up a state body to assume responsibility for planning, implementing and maintaining sea defenses against the cliffs’ collapse, which will include building breakwaters.

Last week, the team preparing the master plan met for the first time. The Interior Ministry contracted the company Geoprospect to prepare the cliff protection plan, together with a Canadian engineer and other world experts. However, the formation of the government body to implement the plan was delayed and is still at a preliminary stage.

Without a master plan, the local authorities cannot issue building permits to protect beaches where the cliffs are in danger of collapse. These include Herzliya, Ashkelon, Netanya and Beit Yanai, where the endangered cliffs have buildings on them.

The authorities may only act if the buildings on the cliffs are in immediate danger of collapse and deemed unsafe, or on the basis of previously approved plans.

State: Local authorities should foot the bill

A few months ago, the local authorities petitioned the High Court of Justice against the government decision to begin protecting the cliffs, which requires the authorities to fund the construction work.

At the High Court’s first hearing on the petition last week, the state presented the preparations for drafting a master plan.

The state asked the court to deny the petition, claiming that the authorities are legally obliged and responsible to finance the cliff’s protection.

Environmental Protection Ministry officials said the construction of breakwaters and other sea structures would make up 80 percent of the overall cost of protecting the cliffs.

The officials said the main problem is not the collapse of the buildings on the cliffs, but preventing public access to the endangered areas.

They said signs must be put up warning the public wherever a cliff is in danger of collapse.

Some three weeks ago, part of a cliff at a beach near Hadera collapsed, burying the sign warning of collapse that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority had erected there.

Environmental groups have also criticized the plan to protect the cliffs.

The groups fear the government’s plan to build a long breakwater line off the beaches will obstruct the sand flow to the beaches, change the coastal landscape and erode the beaches close to the breakwater.

The new body is to be called The Government Company for Protecting the Cliffs of the Mediterranean Shore, Ltd. It will be responsible for planning, implementing and maintaining sea defenses against the cliffs’ collapse, which will include building breakwaters.

Nissan Damari