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The Abu Dis garbage dump may face closure due to a dispute over fees between the Jerusalem municipality and Palestinian municipal authorities, both of which use the East of Jerusalem dump.

The Palestinians are having difficulty paying usage fees and if they are unable to do so the dump may lose its legal status, since a dump over the Green Line may operate only if it also serves the local Palestinian population.

Jerusalem may thus find itself without a garbage dump, while large quantities of Palestinian garbage could be dumped in the area of Bethlehem and the Judean Desert.

The Ma'aleh Adumim municipality's economic corporation, which operates the Abu Dis landfill, is supposed to charge a fee - intended to make landfill dumping more expensive and encourage recycling - to all towns using the dump, which is then transfered to a clean-up fund administered by the Environmental Protection Ministry. However, fearing the Palestinian towns could not afford the landfill fees, the corporation asked the state to exempt them.

After the state prosecutor's office and the Environmental Protection Ministry turned down the request, the Ma'aleh Adumim municipality petitioned the High Court of Justice. The court gave the parties three months to solve the problem, and meanwhile the corporation's debt to the clean-up fund swelled.

After Ma'aleh Adumim's request to the Jerusalem municipality to pay the Palestinians' share was turned down, the corporation demanded that the Palestinian municipal authorities using the dump (including the towns of Bethlehem and Beit Sahur) pay up. They responded by blocking entrance to the dump in protest for a few hours last week.

Jerusalem city manager Yair Ma'ayan says it is the state's responsibility to pay the Palestinians' share. He warned that the crisis would lead to the city's stopping trash collection from government offices, adding that an ecological disaster could result if garbage was dumped in the Judean Desert. He also said the city had no alternative, even a temporary one, to the Abu Dis dump.

The director of the Efeh landfill in the Negev said he would be willing to take the Abu Dis garbage, in addition to the Dan region's garbage already coming in. However, this solution would be much more expensive.