Coastal Israeli Towns Petition Court Over State Failure to Deal With Crumbling Cliffs

The municipalities of Herzliya, Ashkelon and Netanya also say that the state is unfairly saddling them with responsibility for the problem.

The municipalities most affected by the crumbling of the Mediterranean coastal cliff petitioned the High Court of Justice last week, against what they say is the state's failure to implement expert recommendations that would protect the cliffs.

The municipalities of Herzliya, Ashkelon and Netanya also say that the state is unfairly saddling them with responsibility for the problem. In 2010 the cabinet passed a decision to protect the calcareous limestone cliffs, where the danger of landslides threatens many structures.

Three years ago a man was killed on the beach north of Netanya in such a landslide.

The cabinet decision called for the adoption of a policy paper containing recommendations by Environmental Protection Ministry experts for a comprehensive program to protect endangered areas of the cliff, particularly in urban areas.

The recommendations called for timetables for implementation of protective elements on land and sea. The cabinet, which approved the recommendations last year, appointed a committee to implement them.

The petitioners claim that the panel is acting against the recommendations. Instead of setting the comprehensive policy which the experts called for, the government has taken responsibility for construction of breakwaters, but has tasked municipalities with protection on land, without providing the cities with the funding to do so.

The municipalities say they have invested major efforts in protecting the cliff, having conducted surveys and other actions for planning purposes. However, they say they do not have the money to fund implementation without government assistance.

National agency

The Environmental Protection Ministry, which is leading the efforts to protect the cliff, responded: "Throughout the process the ministry has insisted that a national agency be established to concentrate all efforts in protecting the beach cliff. Happily, in July the government accepted our position and decided to establish a government company." The ministry said that the government had taken responsibility for protection by sea, the cost of which is estimated in the hundreds of millions of shekels, adding: "It is to be noted that in the joint committee chaired by the ministry director general it was decided that protection on land would be the responsibility of the municipalities, which derive profit from it. Beyond this, the ministry is studying the details of the petition."

The petition stresses the importance of breakwater construction in protecting the cliff from being undermined by waves. However, some experts oppose this solution, stating that breakwaters pass the problem onto neighboring beaches by diverting wave energy and endanger swimmers by creating whirlpools.

Chen Ashad