Retreating Dead Sea Poses Land Question

By Haaretz

Published November 10, 2011.
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The retreat of the Dead Sea is a problem not only for environmentalists, but for the Civil Administration’s legal experts who must establish who owns the land uncovered by the receding coastline.

In some parts, the coast has retreated by as much as half a kilometer, necessitating the relocation of parking lots, stores and other tourist facilities that are now too far from the water. Since the sea’s northern section lies in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces Civil Administration is responsible for approving plans to relocate the facilities.

Two and a half years ago, the Megilot Regional Council prepared a new master plan for the area that would move these facilities closer to the water. But the Civil Administration lawyers said they couldn’t approve it, because the newly exposed land’s legal status is unclear. A comprehensive survey must be conducted before it can be declared state land on which construction can be authorized, and due to the diplomatic implications, this process must be carried out “by the book,” they said.

Both the regional council and many army officers argued that the exposed land should be declared state land automatically, just as was done when the Mediterranean coastline changed. But the lawyers won out: Surveyors painstakingly mapped the area, then the Jordanian government was asked if it had any documents attesting to who owned the former seabed. And so far, no end is in sight.

“They need to make sure there was no Palestinian village there,” mocked a source in the regional council.

A senior Central Command officer termed the process “idiocy.”

“The legal advisors have lost all sense of proportion on the matter and are acting contrary to the state’s agenda,” said Mordechai Dahaman, head of the Megilot Regional Council. “It’s simply delusional.”

The IDF Spokesman said this problem arises every time a receding coastline exposes more land. “To bolster legal certainty and due to the need for transparency vis-a-vis the entire population, it was decided to embark on the statutory process of registering the exposed land.” The process has taken so long due to the large amount of land involved and the Civil Administration’s “order of priorities with regard to formalizing the state’s land rights.”

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