Israelis Living in West Bank Demand Green Laws Apply on Their Side of Green Line

Opponents on the left claim the call for Israeli regulations in the West Bank is an attempt by settlers to promote their political agenda.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Israelis living in the West Bank are demanding that the Environmental Protection Ministry apply Israel's environmental-protection laws to areas over the Green Line.

The demand has drawn opposition from the left, with opponents claiming such a move could be interpreted as a step toward placing the settlements under Israeli sovereignty.

“In principle, I’m against applying any Israeli law across the Green Line,” said MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), the chairman of the Knesset’s Social-Environmental Lobby. “It’s occupied territory, and such an act is a violation of international law. I see it as using the concept of environmental protection to promote a political agenda.”

Currently, environmental issues in the West Bank settlements are handled by two environmental councils that operate over the Green Line. The groups' chairs – Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Gaby Bar Zakay and Oranit Mayor Shlomi Langer – wants Israel's existing environmental-protection laws to be applied across the Green Line without delay.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and the head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, Bar Zakay and Langer wrote that only some of Israel's environmental-protection laws are in effect in the settlements, and even those only through the local councils' bylaws.

Furthermore, the law giving partial powers to the settlement councils does not include the environmental-protection laws that were passed in Israel over the past five years. For example, laws dealing with air quality, radiation exposure, asbestos treatment, the recycling and packaging of electronic waste, and the jurisdiction of local-authority inspectors do not apply over the Green Line.

Communities under the jurisdiction of the settlement councils also cannot participate in the Environmental Protection Ministry's recycling efforts. And vital air quality laws, such as the law against black smoke emissions and other industrial pollutants, cannot be enforced, nor can factories be held to legal standards for permissible emissions.

Because the inspectors have no power to enact these laws, the settlements cannot legally stop the widespread practice of transporting construction waste over the Green Line, nor can factories be prosecuted for emitting pollutants beyond permissible levels. This is a serious matter, as the area contains vital groundwater reserves that are extremely vulnerable to pollutants.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Ministry commented, “We operate according to the powers determined for us by law to improve cooperation with all the players in Judea and Samaria, both Jewish and Palestinian, by means of understanding, since this activity serves the whole population, both Jewish and Arab. We work out of the belief that environmental problems have no borders or barriers.”

A settler looks at the West bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim.Credit: AP

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