Israel Tackles Environmental Hazards in West Bank - in Violation of Oslo Accords

Israel's Civil Administration is taking action against a waste disposal site and charcoal producers in Area B, the territory under Palestinian civil control

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The Israeli army’s Civil Administration taking care of environmental hazards in Area B of the West Bank.
The Israeli army’s Civil Administration taking care of environmental hazards in Area B of the West Bank.Credit: COGAT Spokesperson
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Israel’s governing body in the West Bank has begun taking action against environmental hazards in Area B, the territory under Palestinian civil control but joint security control, in violation of the Oslo Accords.

The Israeli army’s Civil Administration – which carries out all bureaucratic functions within the occupied territories – has acted against a waste disposal site near the town of Awarta, in the northern West Bank, as well as Palestinian charcoal producers and construction waste sites.

This is the first time in years the Israel Defense Forces has taken enforcement actions in Area B, Israeli officials told Haaretz.

The actions come in addition to a recent report in Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom that the Civil Administration was taking action against a quarry near the Dragot stream, also situated in Area B.

These actions are in violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian Authority supervision over all civilian matters in Area B, which comprises some 22 percent of the West Bank.

However, the IDF claims these environmental hazards are creating severe damage and the PA has frequently avoided keeping its commitments to enforcing environmental regulations there.

Israeli officials said some of the hazards have been harming West Bank settlements and towns inside Israel itself, and that they “had no choice” but to deal with the root of the problem.

Even though the Israeli intervention is in violation of the Oslo agreements, the actions have been approved by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, said an Israeli official. These actions meet the standards of international environmental law, he added.

“The environmental justification of the Civil Administration to take enforcement action against Palestinians, without authority, in Area B is extremely worrying, in light of the fact that the Civil Administration does not enforce the deep environmental harm by the settlements, the military and the rest of the Israeli bodies in the West Bank,” said Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, an architect from Bimkon – Planners for Planning Rights.

The pro-settler Regavim nongovernmental organization, which says its aim is to “preserve national lands,” praised the enforcement decision.

“The environmental appendix to the Oslo Accords has a long list of issues that each side is required to advance and protect in accordance with professional and international standards,” said Oved Arab, who is in charge of Regavim’s land division.

“Not only does the Palestinian Authority not keep its part of the agreement to promote environmental protection, it also does not prevent – and many times is even responsible for – a long list of environmental hazards in the area under its responsibility.”

The Civil Administration said that given the PA’s lack of enforcement against environmental hazards, despite repeated requests, it decided to act according to the law and remove charcoal manufacturing hazards in Area B. The Civil Administration said these were a clear and immediate public health threat, in the West Bank and elsewhere. The Civil Administration has been acting against the charcoal producers since last November, it said.

In May, Israeli inspectors took enforcement action against a “pirate” waste disposal site in Awarta, which was an environmental and health hazard to local residents, the Civil Administration added.

In May 2016, an Israeli regional council, Menashe, complained that the Israeli government had failed to implement decisions to prevent air pollution from charcoal production plants in the northern West Bank, resulting in serious health problems for citizens of north-central Israel.

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