10/27/2011 03:19

Green groups praise Lands Administration new head Benzi Lieberman for brokering agreement to keep western Galilee area commercial free.
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Following widespread appeals from government ministers, green groups and the general public, the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) has decided to cancel plans to construct a vacation village and commercial center on Betzet Beach in the North.

Pleas from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias led newly appointed ILA Director Benzi Lieberman to enter negotiations on Tuesday with the companies that had won the bid to construct the village in November 2007 – Tzioni Herzl Entrepreneurs and Macpel Industries – to stop work in the Betzet area, a statement from the ILA said.

The land encompasses a region of about 200 dunams and was slated to house a resort and an artificial lake, but the companies had not yet begun construction, according to the ILA. Since the parties successfully reached an agreement that includes financial compensation for the companies, all work on the project will stop shortly, the ILA statement added.

“We praise the new director of the ILA, Mr. Benzi Lieberman, on the apparent adjustment with regard to the vacation village on Betzet Beach,” a statement from the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI) said. “Lieberman listened to the wishes of the public and acted in favor of the public good over the interests of entrepreneurs.”

Lieberman, formerly the chairman of the Judea and Samaria Regional Council, was appointed director of the Israel Lands Authority at the end of September.

On October 16, more than 1,000 people took to the Betzet coast in a protest against the future vacation village orchestrated by SPNI along with the Working Committee of Western Galilee residents. SPNI had contended that constructing these commercial venues would fragment beach areas and disrupt open space, while also causing noise, light and air pollution.

Hand-in-hand, the protesters created a one-kilometer human wave “to illustrate the extent of the public protest against the establishment of vacation villages,” SPNI had said.

“It is necessary to praise the director of the Israel Lands Administration on this first bold and historic decision,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense.

“We hope that this decision heralds a trend of changes in the conduct of the ILA and the protection of open spaces, and the coastal environment in Israel.”

Bracha likewise emphasized how he hoped Lieberman would face future challenges with such grace – particularly stressing the importance of protecting the Kinneret coast, maintaining the Samar sand dunes and canceling sand mining.

“We hope that Mr. Benzi Lieberman will stick to the environmental-public line and will be concerned with preventing the marketing of new tenders by virtue of old plans that are not in line with the environment.”