Tourism Minister Opposes Un-green Palmahim Resort

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu) opposes the current plans for a resort on Palmahim beach, he told environmental activists.

The activists approached Misezhnikov last week, after the state comptroller harshly criticized the decision-making process that led to the approval of the plan, and recommended it be scrapped.

The group told the minister that the site would severely damage the landscape and the environment.

The minister's bureau said in a statement that his plan to bring 1 million more tourists to Israel a year required building hotels at various price levels, and that a lack of rooms could seriously hurt the tourism industry. However, the minister believes that all projects should balance environmental protection and tourism development.

"The project on Palmahim Beach lacks this balance, and is not compatible with the ministry's policy of sustainable tourism. Therefore the ministry opposes the plan in its present format," the minister's bureau said.

The Tourism Ministry is supposed to be the decisive party in planning and approving resorts along the coast. However, the state comptroller found that the ministry does not take part in the process of marketing the land.

The comptroller's report also noted that the Israel Lands Administration ignored an evaluation stating the resort would not be economically viable.

He also noted that the Central District planning and construction committee had allowed for changes to the plan to include guest rooms, which means that the project could be turned into a residential development.

The Knesset State Control Committee will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the report.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), of the Knesset's environmental caucus, said the Knesset should intervene to ensure the authorities do not ignore the comptroller's findings.