Palmachim Beach Campaign: “We Have Won”

Grassroots campaigners claim final victory in fight to preserve open space for the Israeli public. Photo by Michael Green

It was over two years ago that Green Prophet first reported on the grassroots campaign to stop developers from paving over one of the last remaining ‘wild’ spaces on central Israel’s coastline: ‘fisherman’s beach’ at Palmachim. It’s been a long struggle, but this week the protesters finally got the word that they won their battle – and the picturesque bay will remain in public hands.

The controversy began in 2007 when, almost overnight, bulldozers moved into a small area south of Kibbutz Palmachim, razing sand dunes and fencing off open space just metres from the shore. Several years earlier, a development company gained permission to build a 350-room holiday village on the picturesque spot. Even though the 2004 Law for the Protection of the Coastal Environment bans construction 100 metres from Israeli shores, the resort was authorised before the law was passed. In addition to the legal case, opponents argued that preserving the beach from destruction was in the public interest.

Despite a grassroots campaign by local residents, it seemed like the beach’s fate was sealed. Business interests outweighed a few campaigners camped out in tents on the sand. But on Sunday, the two-year struggle which gained the support of NGOs, the media, politicians and public figures finally came to an end. Israeli government ministers decided to forbid the project once and for all, prompting Adi Lustig, the teenage activist who spearheaded the campaign, to write on her Facebook page: “We’ve won!” – “Justice won and not money.”

Update: The follow statement was made by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the start of a cabinet meeting on 11 July 2010:

Today, the Government will decide on instructing the Central District [Planning and Building] Committee to change the plan to build hundreds of vacation units on the Palmachim Beach and thus restore the coastal strip to the public.  This decision will implement the State Comptroller’s 2009 report, which called for reconsideration of the plan to build a holiday village by the seashore.  The country’s beaches are a unique resource.  It must be assured that they will continue to be open to the public at large.

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