Palmachim at Center of Environmental Struggle

YERUSHALAYIM -

The sand dunes of Palmachim on Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast have become the focal point of a larger public campaign to preserve what remains of the country’s unspoiled seafront.

“I want to create a massive movement of people that has this very focused mission,”  Dana Lustig, a Palmachim activist, told The Jerusalem Post. “It starts with the beaches and then moves into the water and then on to many other things we can do as a whole united group.”

Last week, ahead of a central district steering committee meeting on Wednesday, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel launched a campaign that called upon Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to keep their promise to protect the Palmachim coast.

Working with SPNI are several environmental organizations, such as the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Green Course, the Committee to Save Palmachim Beach and the Israeli Forum for the Preservation of Beaches. Through the campaign, members of the public have so far submitted over 6,000 letters to the government.

In 2010, a similar environmental alliance thwarted plans for a large resort complex on Palmachim Beach. The government backed out after it had granted approval to the project’s developers, who had already purchased the land.

Two and a half years later, no financial compensation agreement or site alternative has been decided on, and so the project has been sent back to the Central District Committee for Planning and Building. The green groups are worried that the resort plan could be revived unless they keep up pressure against it.

At the steering committee meeting on Wednesday morning, representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority presented an alternate plan — to designate the entire Palmachim region as a national park and nature reserve.

To appease the developers, they also recommended a smaller site across the street, next to the Palmachim air force base, as a substitute location. Financial compensation was thought to be a more realistic alternative, though.

In the meantime, there was no decision on the proposals, an Environment Ministry spokesman said.