Settlers: Extend Israel environment laws to W. Bank

Leaders urge Knesset to apply environmental laws to Area C of West Bank, claiming legislative vacuum currently exists.

Sussiya 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sussiya 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Settler officials called on parliamentarians on Sunday to apply new environmental laws to West Bank settlements in Area C, presently outside the scope of that legislation.
“Our hands are tied when it comes to enforcement if this change is not made,” said Yitzhak Meyer, director-general of Samaria’s environmental protection association.
He explained that his association and the one for the Binyamin Region were the enforcement arms of the local authorities in the West Bank.
A legislative vacuum exists in West Bank settlements when it comes to the environment, he said. Old environmental regulations seen as applicable to settlements there have been erased and replaced by tougher laws that do not cover Area C, under Israeli civil and military control.
As a result, in recent years it has become impossible to force factories in West Bank industrial parks and settlements to comply with environmental restrictions, Meyer said.
He added that although former environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan had taken the issue seriously, Israeli officials for the most part ignored complaints.
The issue is complicated by diplomatic concerns. Attempts to apply Israeli law to Area C are often seen as a backhanded way of annexing that region of the West Bank.
On Sunday, the heads of the Samaria and Binyamina environment protection association wrote a four-page letter on the topic, which they sent to the media, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Justice Ministry.
Meyer explained that this drive had nothing to do with diplomatic concerns and was purely an enforcement issue. He added that the request was only to apply the laws to West Bank settlements and industrial parks.
The failure to apply such legislation to the municipalities of Judea and Samaria infringes upon the welfare of those living there and creates an atmosphere of environmental lawlessness, the letter’s authors explained.
“Largely, the non-application of Israeli environmental law enables developers, private businesses and other bodies to find in Judea and Samaria options for establishing a pollution haven,” they wrote.
The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria said it needed more time to respond to the letter.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) and his ministry took a middle- of-the-road position that spoke to the need for environmental protection, but did not advocate for full application of the environmental laws.
“We act according to the conception that environmental pollution knows no borders and that environmental protection should be systemic, and from a desire to improve the quality of life of all the population,” Peretz said in a statement.
“Nevertheless, the legal authority that governs in the Judea and Samaria region is the legal advisor in Judea and Samaria,” the statement continued.
“It is important to remember that the victims of environmental pollution in the Judea and Samaria region include the entire population, and this also includes the Palestinians.”
In their letter to the media, the environmental protection associations cited eight examples of problematic areas that have arisen in the last five years due to new legislation.
These include: the Local Authorities Law (Environmental Enforcement – Authorities of Inspectors), the Non-Iodizing Radiation Law, the Clean Air Law, the Packaging Law, the Asbestos Law, the Electronic Waste Law, the Environmental Protection Law (Powers of Inspection and Enforcement) and the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) Law.
The only one of these eight to even have been presented in draft form for application in Judea and Samaria is the notion of bringing in “green police” to the Israeli settlements through the Environmental Protection Law, which the writers said they hope will begin to take place within a few months.
The failure to implement the Local Authorities Law (Environmental Enforcement – Authorities of Inspectors) has meant that although some municipalities in the West Bank have trained environmental inspectors, such specialists still have no enforcement authority in the region, the authors said.
This has led to issues regarding the ability of contractors from Israel proper to enter the settlement areas in order to empty their building waste.
Meanwhile, the lack of legislation also enables residents to dump raw sewage on the ground and thereby contaminate the aquifers without punishment, in a hydrologically sensitive region, the letter explained.
Without the equivalent of the Non-Iodizing Radiation Law in place, businesses are setting up facilities that emit radiation without proper regulation.
Meanwhile, the lack of legislation similar or identical to the Clean Air Law means that air quality hazards are prominent throughout the West Bank, and that wasteburning sites and industrial plants can release emissions without permits that would be required in Israel proper, the authors said.
The absence of a law like the Packaging Law means that local authorities are not required to determine arrangements for collection of packaging, and residents do not have the opportunity to participate in the Environmental Protection Ministry’s program for waste separation at the source.
Similar issues plague Judea and Samaria residents due to the fact that they need not abide by the Electronic Waste Law, the authors added.
A lack of a law similar to the Asbestos Law indicates that there are no rules determining the use of asbestos, nor regarding the proper dismantling of asbestos – rules that are “critical to the preservation of public health,” according to the letter.
Lastly, by not employing the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Law in Judea and Samaria, the government is freeing businesses that operate in the region from providing transparent data on emissions that they release to the environment in the region. Without the requirement of such mandatory data registry, a “distorted picture” of the pollution situation of the area emerges, the authors stressed.