Green Groups Launch New Effort to Block Building of Hotel in Timna

Hotel may damage natural landscape in the Sasgon Valley region, activists say; 'This is a megalomaniacal and kitschy plan,' lawmakers say.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
Timna Valley.
Timna Valley.Credit: Doron Nissim
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Green organizations are demanding that planning authorities enable the public to register its opposition to the construction of a hotel in the Timna Valley in the Arava desert.

The plan for the controversial hotel was approved by the Southern District Planning and Building Committee two weeks ago. But environmental organizations claim that in light of the many changes in the original plan, it should be submitted once again — a procedure which would give residents of the region a chance to present their reasons for opposing it.

The request was made by Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the environmental organization Adam Teva V’Din, two of the groups which have consistently opposed the construction of the hotel, because of their fear of damage to the natural landscape in the Sasgon Valley region, which is part of the Timna Valley.

At the same time, MKs Yael Cohen-Paran (Zionist Union), Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Sharren Haskel (Likud) turned to the Knesset Interior and Environmental Protection Committee, and asked it to hold an urgent discussion of the approval of the plan for the hotel.

“This is a megalomaniacal and kitschy plan that was ranked ninth out of 10 alternatives, and it will damage, in an unprecedented and dangerous manner, a rare and pristine area of global importance,” according to the MKs.

The plan to build a hotel in the Sasgon Valley was approved about 10 years ago and was even presented for public opposition. But as a result of the appeal filed by Adam Teva V’Din against the plan, the Be’er Sheva District Court ordered that it be discussed once again, one reason being in order to adapt it to the requirements of Tama 35, the national master plan for construction and development throughout the country.

As a result of that discussion, many changes were made in the nature and scope of the plan, and various alternative locations for the hotel were presented, including outside the Sasgon Valley. But in the end these alternatives were rejected by the district committee last month. According to the plan, the hotel is supposed to be built on an area of 140 dunams, and include about 240 rooms.

In their most recent request, the two environmental organizations claim that in light of the many changes in the plan, it should be submitted once again for public opposition.

The developer, Yoav Igra, rejects a possibility of building the hotel on an alternative site. “We reject that out of hand,” Igra told Haaretz. “We always said that we don’t want a hotel inside a kibbutz or alongside a highway. What attracted us is the landscape, which is suitable for tourism.”

The planning committee is supposed to give its answer to the latest request in the coming days. If it rejects the request, the green organizations are expected to submit an appeal against approval of the plan to the National Appeals Committee, which operates in the context of the National Planning and Building Council. If that process is unsuccessful, they will likely petition the court.

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