The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), together with other environmental organizations and Israel’s mayors, celebrated a decision on September 9th by the National Planning and Building Council to save up to 160,000 hectares of open spaces and green belt areas. This decision also protects for the first time in the planning system “ecological corridors” and expands “scenic areas” which are important to endangered species and nature lovers alike. Coupled with the September 2nd decision to dismiss a plan for fracking in the Elah Valley, this has been one of the most significant weeks for Israel’s environmental movement in recent years.
The decision was a blow to the efforts of the Interior Ministry, backed by the last two administrations, to implement radical planning reform and gut zoning regulations in the National Master Plan (TAMA 35).
As a result of SPNI’s campaign, the National Planning and Building Council rejected the Interior Ministry’s proposal which would have allowed additional construction on up to 8% of Israel’s remaining open spaces, including green belt land. This means Israel will continue to emphasize development in Israel’s existing cities, curb urban sprawl, and prioritize the development of the Negev, the Galilee and Jerusalem. TAMA 35, bolstered by this decision, paves the way for sustainable development in Israel over the next 25 years, protecting open spaces and green areas in cities with an emphasis on urban renewal and promoting quality of life throughout Israel.
SPNI’s spokesman said, “There are hundreds of thousands of approved housing units just waiting to be built,” referring to the original TAMA 35. “We must work for their immediate realization and not continue initiating more and more plans which will contribute nothing toward the housing shortage, which will not add even one more housing unit and will only undermine citizens’ welfare and quality of life.”
“The decision today is great tidings for the citizens of Israel who will finally enjoy both an expansive supply of housing units at a fair price and green spaces“ said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “This achievement … shows how environmental justice is inextricably linked to social justice”
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) is Israel’s oldest and largest environmental NGO. Founded in 1953, over the past 60 years, SPNI has made a profound and tangible impact on preserving and promoting Israel’s open spaces, landscapes, and nature and national resources. In the last year SPNI connected with over 800,000 Israelis through our educational, recreational or ecological activities.