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Adam Teva V'din fared far better when it challenged the rash of construc-tion projects that began to threaten Israel's shoreline in the mid-1990s. The country's Mediterranean coast stretches for 190 kilometers, and the adja-cent plains embrace more than 70 percent of the country's population and

contain the bulk of the country's economic infrastructure. When one subtracts the military installations and the lands neutralized by indus-trial installations (four power stations, two oil refineries, two ports, and so forth), only about half of the beaches are left for the Israeli public. This comes to less than two centimeters of shoreline per person. In 1970, the National Planning Council decided to draft a special master plan to manage coastal-zone development. Eleven years later, National Master Plan Number 13 was finally proposed and was approved by the government in 1983.[101]

At first glance the Master Plan, with its highly protective tone, was a triumph for conservation. Development intensity levels were assigned to beaches on the basis of visitor capacity. The plan designated 98 kilometers for beaches; 47 kilometers for beach reserves; 30 kilometers for national parks, reserves, and public open spaces; and 15 kilometers for infrastruc-ture.[102] It required that developers prepare an impact statement prior to building, and it banned any sort of residential housing along the coast. The plan was more lenient with hotel construction, presumably because tourism was an economic value of sufficient importance to override con-servation interests. Significantly, it imposed a one-hundred-meter setback of structures from most of the Mediterranean waterline, preventing con-struction from encroaching on Israel's beaches. This level of protection set Israel apart as a regional leader, ahead of Cyprus's sixty-meter setback line or Turkey's ten-to-thirty-meter proscription.[103]

But the plan had several Achilles' heels. These included fourteen mari-nas that were to monopolize huge chunks of city shorelines. Not only did marinas obstruct public access to the seashore, but they also decimated the contiguous beaches to the north. The sand on Israel's shores comes from sediment that originates in the Nile Delta. Deposition had already been re-duced 90 percent by construction of the Aswan High Dam.[104] The wave breakers that enclose marinas serve as a physical barrier, trapping the sand and preventing replenishment of the beach. The massive erosion that re-sulted was particularly unfortunate, because there was no real demand for anything approaching the yacht capacity that fourteen marinas provided. Yet marinas offered a boom for the local tax base, since developers offered to pay the cities' costs of construction on the water in return for permis-sion to build on the land behind it. When the one-hundred-meter barrier was broken, it was open season on the most lucrative real estate in the country.[105] Once environmental Minister Yossi Sarid learned of the impact of the marinas, he tried to stem the tide, but mayors ignored his call to freeze marina development.[106]


Government impotence sparked a sequence of successful litigation by Adam Teva V'din attorneys. Some lawsuits were conducted in conjunction with local groups (such as the lively Residents for the Seashore—Nahariah) and some independently. Danny Fisch, a former naval officer, was particularly committed to coastal preservation. When an SPNI activist in Ashdod asked him in 1995 to help confront the marina there, he did not hesitate, even though it was already under construction. The Southern District Court in Beer Sheva quickly held hearings on the injunction re-quest. Negotiations ended in compromise, with the city agreeing to spon-sor an independent report on coastal erosion and to repair any coastal damage caused by the project.[107]

At the same time, the City of Tel Aviv proposed its second municipal marina, to be located at the outlet of the Yarkon River. As no plan had yet been formally submitted for public scrutiny, it provided an opportunity for setting a more meaningful precedent. Gila Stopler had been a lawyer for less than a year when she appeared on behalf of Adam Teva V'din, before Sara Serota, a seasoned judge in the Tel Aviv District Court. She asked Serota to enjoin the Regional Planning Committee from submitting the marina plan for public consideration until an environmental impact state-ment could be prepared.[108] Initially the Adam Teva V'din team was sur-prised by the judge's unfriendly reception: “Bubeleh,” Justice Serota condescended to the youthful-looking Stopler, “Why don't you save your-selves the court costs? It's a fairly unusual remedy you're asking for. Your case is premature; first let them submit the plan, and then file an objection if you like.”

Stopler did not back down, insisting that the public did not have the necessary information to file objections and that it could find such mate-rial only in the contents of an impact statement. The environmental Ministry's Regional Director, Dalia Be'eri, happened to be in attendance. She asked to speak to the court (a request that was completely out of order) and proceeded to criticize the government attorneys' position. When Be'eri described the damage caused by Herzliyah's marina, Justice Serota changed her mind. In the decision against the city and the develop-ers, she wrote: “It is incumbent on us to leave something for our children. The tendency to derive financial benefit from public lands ought to be sec-ondary to the benefits public lands bring the public.”[109]

The next Adam Teva V'din coastal achievement was a decision by District Court Judge Gabrielle Kling, canceling the development plan behind the Herzliyah marina.[110] Soon thereafter, legal action derailed a marina (again replete with luxury housing units) that was planned

in Haifa.[111] The marina would have changed the face of the scenic coastal landscape there, with bombastic high-rise compounds on sea-side landfills, breaking the gentle slope of the green Carmel hillsides into Haifa Bay.[112]

The enormous profits for coastal developers guaranteed that sooner or later the legal battles would turn ugly. So it was when Adam Teva V'din turned its attention to the Carmel Towers. A high-rise complex had been approved for Haifa's western coastline in 1978, prior to the passage of the Coastal Master Plan with its protective policies. The six towers were to hold 1200 luxury resort apartments and 800 hotel rooms as well as con-ference centers. It was not until 1993, however, that construction on the first tower began.[113] When Adam Teva V'din attorney Elli Ben-Ari went to check the plans, he was astonished to find enormous discrepancies between the blueprint and the city's building permit. The approved structure was supposed to be nine stories high and fifty-six meters wide. Instead, the de-velopers were building eighteen stories that covered one hundred and thirty-four meters of beachfront.[114]

Ben-Ari, a Haifa native, was appalled when he saw that, if the con-struction continued, a virtual wall of high-rise towers would block off a full kilometer of beach—a seventh of his hometown's coastline. The only beneficiaries would be the luxury apartment owners and the developers. The Adam Teva V'din Board of Directors was convinced that the organiza-tion could not stand idly by, despite the low likelihood of success in court.

When the matter came before the Haifa District Court in April 1996, Judge Dan Bayne agreed to grant a temporary injunction, implying that the building approval was not as “kosher” as the developers insisted. But Adam Teva V'din could not afford the bond that he imposed as a condition for receiving the injunction. The organization was also wary of a precedent that would impose huge financial risks on future public-interest litigants. For most of the next year, the judge's decision alone proved enough to chill the construction on the second tower. In the meantime the developers counterattacked.

The hotel project was sponsored by a group of investors that included Itzhak Tshuva, one of Israel's most prosperous contractors. They claimed that the stalled construction was costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars per week. The Carmel Towers attorney (and partial owner), Itzhak Segev, dashed off letters to Adam Teva V'din's managers and board, in-forming them of their personal liability for losses caused by delays. The personal threats were elevated on March 3, 1997, by a more formal round of letters threatening that suits were imminent.[115]


The harassment did not stop there. Prior to the organization's general meeting in 1997, last-minute applications for membership were faxed from Tshuva's Tashluz construction headquarters. Several more arrived suspiciously at the Adam Teva V'din office via courier. Newspaper reports later confirmed that at least one of the applicants had been asked to join the organization by “senior Tashluz management.”[116] Although the mem-bership forms were rejected, it was impossible to seal a democratic organ-ization hermetically. At the general meeting itself, Dan Marom, a hitherto anonymous member, created an uproar when he sent his attorney to rep-resent him. Marom owned an apartment in the first Carmel Tower, and his lawyer warned the membership that they could each be financially imper-iled if the organization continued with the suit.[117] Those in attendance unanimously voted to discontinue Marom's membership, but he promptly filed suit against the organization, calling his dismissal illegal.

Meanwhile, in the cramped Haifa courtroom, the developers were particularly bellicose. They drafted over fifty apartment owners to be co-defendants, imposing the considerable logistical headache associated with serving papers. (Environmentalists closed ranks, and the Society for the Protection of Nature offered its machines for the copious quantities of photocopying needed.) Although technically the suit was filed against the government (specifically, planning agencies and the city of Haifa), govern-ment attorneys were conspicuously uninterested throughout the trial and frequently did not bother to attend court sessions. This left the phalanx of lawyers for the apartment owners an open field to drive the defense strategy. They chose to go on the offensive, putting Adam Teva V'din's legitimacy and its management's good faith on trial.

In an attempt to establish the groundwork for the personal threats against the organization's leaders, their attorneys hammered away at the legality of the decision by the Adam Teva V'din board to file suit. Complaints were filed with the National Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations, calling for disqualification of past decisions by the general meeting on technical grounds. The organization was painted as corrupt and disorganized; the press was told that the suit was filed only to bolster the property value of the Adam Teva V'din Chairman's parents, whose view would be obstructed (although at the time they actually owned no real es-tate in Haifa at all).[118] Despite the constant objections of Adam Teva V'din attorney Elli Ben-Ari, the judge allowed cross-examination to continue for weeks.

Danny Fisch was appointed Adam Teva V'din Director in 1996, and found-ing director Alon Tal became the volunteer chairman. Fisch fielded each of the

attacks with steely composure. Dan Marom, the disgruntled member, had the bad luck to find his case ruled on by the same Justice Serota who had blocked the Tel Aviv marina. She quickly sent him packing. The organization filed a complaint with the Israel Bar Association against Carmel Towers attorneys for harassing witnesses in the middle of their testimony with the threat of a lawsuit. The threatening letters suddenly stopped. The nonprofit registry was ultimately appeased by the group's explanations. The organization even passed a mysterious audit by tax authorities The harassment may have tem-porarily put Adam Teva V'din on the defensive, but it did not stop the or-ganization from filing other legal actions against coastal projects.

When the Haifa court finally ruled on the Carmel Towers suit, both sides claimed victory.[119] Justice Bayne did not agree to tear down the two buildings already up, yet he ruled that contracts to sell them as apartments were illegal and that the one-hundred-meter line to the sea had ostensibly been breached. An appeal will decide who ultimately won, but the case had the immediate ef-fect of changing the second building into a far less imposing, skinnier tower, and it also put the financial future of the project's four remaining towers in doubt. The cumulative impact of the marina litigation temporarily chilled some of the excitement for additional coastal development. But it was a piece-meal conservation strategy. Adam Teva V'din recognized that the country needed comprehensive legislation to tighten coastal management. The orga-nization's attorneys wrote a strict law and began lobbying to pass it.

The hundred-odd court cases and countless more environmental mat-ters that Adam Teva V'din lawyers advanced during the 1990s proved that Israel's legal system was a good equalizer. The unlevel playing field created by inadequate information, a weak Environmental Ministry, and prode-velopment policies could be tipped back in the environment's favor, espe-cially if a case fell to a sympathetic judge. Developers and polluters began to pay more attention to legal requirements, and the public was on occa-sion roused from a fatalistic resignation that victory by economic interests was ineluctable. But not every environmental problem had a legal solu-tion, and there were far more cases than there were public-interest lawyers. The judicial system could provide only part of the solution. Political empowerment would also be needed.

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