Israeli Army Hampering West Bank Pollution Cleanup

Environmental Protection Ministry currently lacks power to enforce environmental laws beyond the Green Line.

Zafrir Rinat
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Zafrir Rinat

Efforts to deal with environmental problems in the West Bank are being severely hampered by the inability of the defense establishment and the Environmental Protection Ministry to reach an agreement on the latter’s enforcement powers.

For about a year, the ministry has been seeking the power to enforce environmental laws over the Green Line. But this would require the Israel Defense Forces to issue an order applying the Environmental Enforcement Law – which authorizes inspectors from both the ministry and the local authorities to enforce legislation – to the West Bank. So far, it hasn’t happened.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said the army has recently begun working with the Justice Ministry on this matter. Progress is being made, it added, but staff work on the issue hasn’t yet been completed.

The ministry said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz has been holding discussions with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in an effort to reach an agreement on how the law should be applied.

According to sources involved in the negotiations between the two ministries, one cause for the delay of the law’s application is the defense establishment’s demand that environmental laws not be enforced on IDF bases. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Ministry has repeatedly demanded that the army clean up sewage problems originating from bases in the West Bank.

The ministry admits that in the absence of legal enforcement powers, environmental lawlessness reigns beyond the Green Line. The IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank has a staff officer responsible for environmental issues, but significant enforcement efforts would require the powers available to ministry inspectors, including the opening of criminal investigations.

Illustration: Sewage flowing out of the settlement of Betar into the neighboring village of Wadi Fukin.Credit: Yaron Rosenthal

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