Israel's Transport Minister objects to plan for marinas

Israeli marina Photo: Tamar Matsafi

Merav Michaeli has backed environmental groups opposed to the six planned marinas to provide berths for 3,500 yachts at the expense of 3.5 kilometers of beaches.

The plan to build new marinas along Israel's coast, which has been strenuously promoted in recent years by the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Interior and the various planning authorities is opposed by new Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli.

Michaeli told "Globes," "I am emphatically against any plan that will harm Israel's coastline. For years building and development along the coast have been done irresponsibly. Our coastline is a national resource for the benefit of the public and must receive the minimum protection from harm. Any marina that will be built, if at all, will be built after careful planning and the presentation of its national necessity and only if it does not harm the beaches that are open to the general public."

The construction of new marinas will be discussed next week by the National Planning and Building Commission. Michaeli's attitude represents a change of direction for the Ministry of Transport, which under her predecessor Miri Regev promoted a controversial plan to build six new marinas for yachts. The plan has been formed by the Ministry of Transport's Israel Port Authority, so Michaeli's opposition will carry major weight.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has already objected to the plan because it damages the country's beaches, cliffs and nature in general for the sake of less than the 1% of the population that uses the marinas.

The Ministry of Interior, which is in charge of the various planning and building committees that must approve marinas, said that Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked is still studying the issue. But sources close to her believe that Shaked is working behind the scenes to promote the plan.

Next Tuesday (November 30) a sub-committee of the National Planning and Building Commission will discuss the plan to build six new marinas for about 3,500 yachts, in addition to the expansion of existing marinas. The local authorities are pushing hard for the plans to be approved while environmental organizations and the Ministry for Environmental Protection object to the damage that will be done to Israel's coastline.

Israel currently has seven marinas in Akko, Haifa, Herzliya, Tel Aviv (Atarim), Jaffa, Ashdod and Ashkelon. 

There is currently 1.6 square meters of beach per person

If the plan proceeds then a marina will be built in Netanya for 700 yachts, as well as similar size marinas in Haifa and Hadera. Tel Aviv will have a second marina with total capacity for 1,200 yachts, while marinas will also be built in Nahariya (500 berths) and Bat Yam (250 berths). The local authorities promoting the projects are hoping to earn fees from the berthing of private yachts. The Netanya Municipality, for example, sees the marina as a future source of tourism revenue, with foreign tourists berthing their yachts in the marina, and putting Netanya in a stronger position as a tourism city.

Although demand for berths in marinas in Israel has grown over the years, Israel's coastline is not very large for a country that will have a population of 15 million by 2050. Therefore, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and environmental organizations insist that the government takes into account the overall needs of the population when deciding on the future of Israel's coast. According to calculations by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) while each Israeli citizen had 30 square meters of beach when the state was established in 1948, today each citizen just has 1.6 square meters. Building more marinas for private yachts would see that amount shrink further.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection acknowledges the need for more yacht space and says that 1,800 new berths can be added by expanding Israel's existing marinas. The Ministry believes that municipalities are overestimating the economic benefits of the marinas for their cities. In addition the Ministry points out that the need to build breakwaters for the new marinas would damage the surrounding public beaches.

Israel's environmental organizations also stress that any damage caused by the marinas to the coastline, beaches and cliffs would be irreversible.

A coalition of Israeli green organizations wrote to Michaeli. "The new marinas, if they are developed, would be built at the expense of the open beaches, even though Israel's Mediterranean coastal strip is less than 200 kilometers long and a quarter of the coast is already taken by infrastructures, industry and military and defense uses. Every marina steals another kilometer of open beach - beach that can be used for sunbathing, hiking, and sea sports for the public at large. Every season more than 200 million visits are made to the beach. Instead of all this six marinas will reduce the coast by 3.5 kilometers for the public for 3,500 private boats. This is absurd. If in 20 years there will be demand for more marinas, they will again plan marinas and against reduce the area of beach available to the public."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 24, 2021.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.

Israeli marina Photo: Tamar Matsafi
Israeli marina Photo: Tamar Matsafi
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