Green Israel

Israeli government ratifies Barcelona ICZM Protocol

The Israeli government ratified the Barcelona Convention’s Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in the Mediterranean, calling for the protection of the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment .

The ICZM Protocol, signed by Israel in 2008, was ratified during the May 8, 2014 government session. Israel is the tenth Mediterranean nation to ratify the Protocol, the world’s first legally binding document of its kind, addressing coastal development through a multidisciplinary approach taking ecological, economic, planning and geopolitical factors into account.

“The ratification of the Protocol is an important step, and Israel has placed itself at the forefront of countries working towards conservation of the Mediterranean coasts,” commented Technion Prof. Rachelle Alterman, coordinator and initiator of the EU-funded Mare Nostrum Project.

Mare Nostrum is an EU-funded project which aims to explore new ways of protecting and managing the Mediterranean coastline and includes partners from Israel, Spain, Greece, Jordan and Malta.

“Israel can certainly be proud of the Coastal Protection Law enacted in 2004 which greatly improved conservation of the few beaches that the Israeli public has. The ratification raises expectations of additional actions that will make the effort worthwhile,” she added.

Ratification was followed by examination of its implications by the cabinet legislative committee, leading to a follow-up Government Decision on June 16, 2014, to establish an inter-ministerial team headed by the Interior Ministry, which will determine within 60 days whether the Coastal Protection Law can be implemented retroactively.

Israeli environmental NGO Adam Teva ve-Din asserts that there are more than 50 development plans that are still waiting to be realized more than 8 years after approval. Many of the old plans violate current legislation, which forbids construction within 100 meters from the seashore and requires special permission for development within 300 meters.

Adam Teva ve-Din Director Amit Bracha received the news of the decision warmly, and stressed that “such a committee is obligated purely to come to one decision, which is to protect the public interest. We will follow the work of the committee and ensure that there will indeed be an end to out of control construction on the beaches.”

His sentiment was echoed by MK Dov Chenin. “It is impossible to continue ignoring the problem while the public is losing more and more beaches to the benefit of superfluous development plans serving the few. Therefore the team appointed must act quickly.”

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who proposed the establishment of the inter-ministerial team, was himself careful not to advocate any far-reaching actions that would harm the interests of property owners.

Professor Alterman, who is a world-renounced scholar in comparative planning law, added that under Israeli law, property owners have extensive rights to compensation for any reduction in property values due to planning decisions. According to Mare Nostum’s 14-country comparative research, Israeli law is extreme on this issue. Therefore canceling old plans would require millions of dollars in compensation to property owners, unless some indirect, creative means of compensation are offered.

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