Hotel Law Hits Another Snag, Postponed Again

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Ein Gedi Beach at the Dead Sea, on February 12, 2016.. Photo by Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90
The Ein Gedi Beach at the Dead Sea, a popular tourist site. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

A law that would allow for the expanded and expedited construction of hotels has once again been taken off the Knesset’s agenda at the last moment, again delaying passage of the bill on its final vote. The delay this time was due to objections by Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon, who is also Environment Minister, over the proximity of hotel construction to beaches. The vote on the bill will now take place next week.

The law, proposed by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, is designed to make it easier for entrepreneurs and companies to build hotels. Israel suffers from a lack of affordable hotel rooms, and numerous studies have shown that the shortage of available rooms is hurting tourism, both domestic and foreign.

Among the strongest opponents of the bill have been environmental groups, who have been demanding guarantees that hotels will not be built directly on Israel’s shore. According to Levin, the bill is not intended in any way to make it easier to build on the shore, but opponents have been demanding that the law be rewritten to include guarantees that no construction will take place within 100 metes of the shore. On Monday, MKs discussed the possibility that that number be expanded to 300 meters.

Three weeks ago, a vote that had been scheduled to approve the bill was postponed due to pressure from environmental groups and a filibuster by opposition MKs. The Adam, Teva veDin environmental group sought an injunction from the Knesset’s legal advisor based on a technicality in the way the bill was presented. The bill has been the subject of surprisingly sharp debate, in which numerous groups expressed opposition to it, concerned that hotels will be built next to rural areas and nature reserves

In a statement, Adam, Teva VeDin expressed satisfaction at the further delay. “This is a most dangerous bill and we are happy at the efforts being made to halt it,” the organization said. “We are positive that the Finance Minister, who is also the Environment Minister, would not want the single most anti-environment piece of legislation ever proposed in the Knesset to pass into law while he is in office.”