Environment Minister Opposes Resort Plan for Palmahim Beach

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan is to propose that the cabinet halt plans to build a resort on the Palmahim Beach south of Rishon Letzion.

Erdan said he had discussed the move with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. However, the Justice Ministry said yesterday that Erdan's statement does not mean Weinstein supports the cabinet's shelving the plan. The attorney general is preparing to submit his opinion to the cabinet regarding the continuation of the authorization process.

A public fight has been underway for two years, spearheaded by activist Adi Lustig, against the plan for the 100-room resort, to be built by developers who won a tender for the project from the Israel Lands Administration. The plan 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.

According to Erdan's proposal, the cabinet, which is also the country's supreme planning institution, would rezone the land to exclude recreation and tourism facilities. However, it is unclear what validity the decision would have, since planning institutions are permitted to use their discretion on such matters. Another question involves how to compensate the developers, a task that might fall to the ILA.