Ministry joins chorus of critics who back an alternate proposal by Israel Nature and Parks Authority to declare the area a nature reserve.
By Zafrir Rinat | Feb.07, 2013

The Defense Ministry has come out against a controversial resort planned at Palmahim Beach, joining the chorus of critics who back an alternate proposal by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to declare the area a nature reserve.

The Defense Ministry voiced its opposition to the resort in a letter submitted to the parks authority ahead of a meeting next week on the issue. The central district Planning and Building Committee is scheduled to discuss whether to accept the parks authority plan and thus shelve the resort proposal.

Major Assaf Goldfarb, the Defense Ministry’s representative on the Planning and Building Committee, wrote that the Defense Ministry supported “the national park plan being promoted that proposes limiting construction rights on the property and in fact annuls the resort project.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who is leading the fight against the resort, had asked the Defense Ministry to state its position.

If the Planning and Building Committee does not accept the parks authority’s proposal to declare the Palmahim Beach area a nature reserve, it could be leaving itself open to a law suit by the developers who won the tender to build the resort. The state has not yet promised compensation to the developers if they are forced to abandon the project. The parks authority was unable to find other workable locations for the resort, the only other possible site being too close to an Israel Air Force base.

The Defense Ministry’s position is crucial because in cases like this one, in which a project is proposed near a military base, the Defense Ministry can impose limitations on civilian activities. The prior approval given to the project stated clearly that the Defense Ministry could limit the plan.

Goldfarb’s letter indicated that restrictions had grown more severe in recent years due to the expansion of the Palmahim base’s activities.

One of the resort’s developers, Pini Malka, said in response to the Defense Ministry’s letter that “the Defense Ministry had previously approved the plan for the resort. Now it opposes alternative sites that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has suggested because they penetrate the military base.”

A Defense Ministry representative had told the developers three years ago that the ministry would not oppose the resort. However, he noted that after three years the developers would have to once again seek the ministry’s support.