Out­cry over pri­va­tised beaches

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY NATHAN JEFFAY

THE IS­RAELI pub­lic and tourists are barred from more than a fifth of Is­rael’s beach­front, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial re­port re­leased re­cently.

The Is­rael Na­ture and Parks Au­thor­ity, a gov­ern­men­tal agency, has found that some 10.3 per cent of the beach­front is closed due to army in­stal­la­tions and a fur­ther 0.5 per cent is in­ac­ces­si­ble for “se­cu­rity rea­sons”. On top of that, 9.5 per cent is in­ac­ces­si­ble be­cause of civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups are out­raged. “The beaches in Is­rael are nat­u­ral re­sources and should be kept for the pub­lic,” said Amit Bracha, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Is­rael Union for Envi- ron­men­tal De­fence. “We say it’s a ba­sic right to be able to ac­cess what is ours.”

Alon Tal, co-chair­man of the Green Move­ment, said that the fig­ures re­flect an Is­raeli “ob­ses­sion with the pri­vati­sa­tion of pub­lic re­sources”.

In 2004, Is­rael passed the Pro­tec­tion of the Coastal En­vi­ron­ment Law, which set out to “pre­serve the coastal en­vi­ron­ment and coastal sand for the pub­lic’s ben­e­fit and en­joy­ment and for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions”.

It spec­i­fied that no build­ing could take place within 300 me­tres of the coast. Ac­cord­ing to Dr Tal, a “some­what lack­adaisi­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law” has con­trib­uted to the large pro­por­tion of beach­front that is in­ac­ces­si­ble. The Min­istry of Con­struc­tion and Hous­ing did not re­spond to a re­quest to com­ment on this mat­ter.

As well as de­ter­min­ing how much beach­front is in­ac­ces­si­ble, the Is­rael Na­ture and Parks Au­thor­ity has cal­cu­lated how much is in use for bathing, but only for those who can pay. Pri­vate beaches ac­count for 1 per cent of the coast­line, and a fur­ther 1.9 per cent is un­der con­trol of lo­cal coun­cils that charge for ac­cess.

And while there are plans for the army to re­move some in­stal­la­tions, Mr Bracha said that he is con­cerned that the space will be­come pay-for beaches rather than free beaches. He said: “The fact that this is a coun­try with­out much open space makes cost-free ac­cess to beaches a very im­por­tant battle.”

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