Thanks to an intense effort by the “Forum of Israeli Coastal Organizations”, the Israeli government’s Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs voted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 to support an amendment to the Protection of the Coastal Environment Law 5764 – 2004, which will protect Israel’s coastline. Pursuant to the government’s decision, the amendment will be voted on by the Knesset in the coming weeks.
The government decision marks a major achievement for the Forum as it succeeded in convincing ministers of the importance of the amendment despite opposition on the part of both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the failure of previous attempts to amend the law.
Yarden Shani Rokman, the Forum’s coordinator is full of praise for Shatil’s contribution to the Forum’s activities. In her opinion, the amendment would not have been adopted without the support of Shatil staff, Yakir Shahaf, Marganit Ofir Gutler, and Omer Cohen who provided vital guidance for the Forum. Yarden said that “Marganit (Shatil consultant and environmental organizer) embodied the principle of joint action and helped create a conviction in the feasibility of cooperation between the different organizations. Omer (Shatil’s environmental coordinator), was a full partner in leading the campaign. Yakir (Shatil media consultant) took it upon himself to personally lead the media campaign and bring the struggle to the knowledge of the public, with extensive resulting media coverage on TV, radio and in the press”. Marganit emphasizes that the struggle was a great example of Shatil’s dual role in promoting the public good. “On the one hand, Shatil’s representatives were involved in classic consultation and capacity building work, while on the other they were proactively involved in the struggle, personally managing the media campaign and utilizing their connections and experience to bridge the gaps between the different organizations and grassroots groups comprising the Forum.”
The Coastal Environment Law was adopted by the Knesset in 2004. Under the law the entirety of Israel’s coastline is considered a public resource that is to be preserved and protected. The law guarantees, inter alia, that the public will be granted a right of way throughout the entire length of Israel’s shores, prohibits construction 100 meters inland of the shore and specifies that construction between 100 and 300 meters of the shore is contingent on approval of a Ministry of Environment committee.
Unfortunately, ever since the law’s promulgation, contractors have been attempting to “chip away” at the protections created by the law. Thus, over the past several years a series of construction projects, adopted before the law’s legislation, have been initiated throughout Israel.
Initially, opposition to the projects was led by local residents who were horrified by the threat posed to their residential environment. At times some of these grassroots organizations were successful, for example a local struggle at Palmachim Beach prevented the construction of a building project that had already been granted government approval.
The intense effort by ordinary citizens as well as leading environmental NGOs to prevent such real estate initiatives is clear evidence of the popular support that the struggle to save Israel’s coastline receives amongst ordinary Israelis. The “Forum of Israeli Coastal Organizations” aimed to leverage this sentiment into a national struggle to save Israel’s beaches. The forum connects between grass roots organizations, and some of Israel’s leading environmental organizations, such as Green Course, The Blue and Green Association, The Green Movement, Adam Teva V’din, The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Zalul in order to facilitate cooperation between the different organizations and provide a comprehensive solution for Israel’s waterfront.
The adoption of the law marks a significant environmental achievement, guaranteeing the future of some of Israel’s most important public resources. The law creates a cross sectional and professional solution for the threat to Israel’s coast. In the future environmental organizations will possess the means to contend with the threat to Israel’s coasts on a national level and not just tackle one obstacle at a time. Just as importantly, the joint action model adopted by the Forum, with Shatil’s guidance, serves as proof that only cooperation between different public interest groups can bring about real and tangible change.
End note: as of the writing of this news item, the Minister of Tourism is attempting to appeal the vote, as he claims that he was not present at the meeting. We will keep you posted.