The Beaches Belong to the Public

Plans to build private resorts on public beaches could damage both the beach's character as an open area and the public's ability to enjoy this resource freely.

Preserving the beaches for public benefit is an important goal in a small, densely populated country like Israel. It could be significantly bolstered by the proposed resolution drafted by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.

The proposal, due to be submitted Sunday for the cabinet's approval, calls on the planning institutions to redesignate Palmahim Beach, south of Rishon Letzion, from a tourist site to an open public area. This would in fact annul the plan, which has been actively campaigned against, to build a resort on an open, uniquely beautiful shore line.

Last week the attorney general, after having examined the State Comptroller's report on the procedures followed to approve the Palmahim resort, ascertained that no fundamental mistakes had been made in approving the plan or marketing the land. Erdan's proposal is not intended to bypass the attorney general's opinion, but to establish the important principle of ensuring the preservation of seashores and keeping them in the public domain.

Thus even plans that were legally approved many years ago, as in the case of Palmahim, should still be reexamined - something which is legally possible. Today the importance of preserving the seashore has become clearer to the planning institutions and last week a national planning committee rejected a blueprint to put up a tourist site on another beach, in the Nahsholim area.

The Palmahim resort is supposed to be built on a shore line, long stretches of which are closed for security reasons. Implementing the plan would irrevocably damage both the beach's character as an open area and the public's ability to enjoy this resource freely. Those residing in densely packed cities and towns along the shore should be able to enjoy the beach as part of their way of life.

Large-scale construction is being carried out on several additional stretches of beach, while others are closed off to the public due to infrastructure or security facilities.

Erdan's proposal also stipulates compensating the entrepreneurs for their expenses related to the resort project. This is another important principle - the state recognizes its error in renouncing public resources in the past and is willing to pay to return them to the public domain.

The proposal should be fully adopted and eventually become an overall policy. The policy will, of course, exercise judgment and take various factors into account, but will also allow for formerly approved plans that might severely harm the public beaches to be shelved.