Our beach is back and it’s here to stay!

Palmachim beach. Photo: Dov Greenblat SPNI

In recent weeks SPNI celebrated two major victories in its ongoing campaign to ensure Israel’s coastline remains free and accessible to the public. Palmachim beach was finally secured as a National Park and nature reserve after 10 years of intense public protests.

And, in addition, in Herzliya, the Tel Aviv District Court reaffirmed the 1999 Supreme Court’s decision, following an SPNI petition, stipulating that the Herzliya Marina apartments must be available as hotel apartments – not private residences.

 

Palmachim Beach, a mile-long stretch of untouched picturesque beach, south of Tel Aviv, and one of Israel’s hidden natural treasures, has been the subject of a long-running legal battle for the past 10 years.

The Israel Coastal Law of 2003, one of SPNI’s greatest legislative achievements of recent years, enshrines free access for the public to Israel's undeveloped beaches. However, a 350-room holiday resort was approved for Palmachim Beach before the law as passed, making it potentially exempt.

 Palmachim beach. Photo: Dov Greenblat SPNIThe government repeatedly made promises to compensate the developer and enable Palmachim beach to be turned into a national park. These promises went unfulfilled and in the last 5 years the developer began to push towards developing the planned resort at the beach. 

The matter was finally resolved in January 2016, when intense public pressure from SPNI, and other environmental groups, led to the intervention of Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon, and the Minister of Environmental Protection, Avi Gabai who finally transferred the funds to compensate the developer and bring this saga to a happy ending.

 

The second significant victory was with the reaffirmation by the Tel Aviv District Court stating that the Herzliya Marina apartments – situated, as they are, right on the coastline - cannot be used for private residence.

In spite of considerable pressure from influential residents, many of which are central public figures, the District Court ruled that all of the apartments sold after 1999 can only serve as a holiday residence, and should be rented out for more than six months a year. It was a reaffirmation of the 1999 Supreme Court’s decision, following an SPNI petition, stipulating that these apartments cannot be used for permanent residence, as such form of residence constitutes private ownership over public lands and beaches.

 

Since 1999 and despite the serious efforts of the Herzliya municipality to enforce this verdict, nothing changed in the status of those apartments, as the affluent residents consistently refused to comply with the court’s decision.

The Herzliya Marina residents now intend to appeal the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the new ruling. We hope that as in the Palmachim beach case, SPNI’s efforts will set a legal precedent so that Israel’s coastline and beaches will remain open for the entire public, not just the wealthy few.