Israel Promoting Plan to Recycle Its Trash in the West Bank

The plan is meant to address multiple environment problems, but opposition lawmaker says $380 million environmental plan is an attempt to divert funds to Jewish settlements and annex the territory

File photo: Garbage on the banks of Nahal Hebron, a stream originating in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The government is promoting a plan costing billions of shekels for a variety of environmental programs throughout the West Bank. Among other things, the plan will advance the construction of a large waste recycling facility in the area of Mishor Adumim, east of Jerusalem, where waste from inside Jerusalem will be sent to be treated and recycled.

MK Mossi Raz (Meretz) argued that the plan is an attempt to divert budgets to the settlements. “Although at first glance it looks as though the ministry wants to protect the environment, the government plans clearly demonstrate that the goal is to prepare the ground for annexation. The building of infrastructure in the occupied territories by the state, without cooperation from the PA, deepends Israeli control in the territories, and thereby in effect is bringing us even closer to the day when the Israeli government will annex the territories.”

For now the plan – which was drawn up mainly in the Environmental Protection Ministry – requires a budget of about 1.4 billion shekels ($380 million). However, according to ministry documents, overall rehabilitation of the "widespread” environmental hazards in the West Bank – which include problems originating from Israeli presence in the area as well as Palestinian civil administration in Areas A and B – is likely to cost about 4.25 billion shekels ($1.15 billion).

According to a source involved in the details, of the 1.4 billion shekels for which there are concrete budgetary sources, about 400 million ($110 million) are coming from the Water Authority in the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry. The money was earmarked for water and sewage projects. About 200 million additional shekels are earmarked for enforcement against burning landfills.

The government has already attained approval for constructing a waste recycling facility in the Ma’aleh Adumim area of the West Bank, on state lands. Between 700 and 800 million shekels ($200 million) will be devoted to this facility, funded by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Jerusalem municipality and the Ma’aleh Adumim municipality. 

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According to a source familiar with the topic, waste from Jerusalem will be brought to the facility, but in light of a legal opinion from the attorney general, waste from inside the Green Line cannot be buried in the soil of the West Bank. Therefore, the facility will recycle what can be recycled, burn what can be burned, and the remaining waste, together with the ash resulting from burning waste, is supposed to be thrown back into Israel, to be buried in Israeli waste disposal sites.

The funds for the Ma'aleh Adumim site have been approved and the plan is underway. Unlike the landfill site originally planned for Ma'aleh Adumim, the planned facility is designed to not damage the soil so that there will be no legal objection to its use in the territories.  

The plan has received broad support from government ministries and the Civil Administration. However, it now faces an obstacle: the need for approval by the Defense Ministry. Three sources involved in formulating the plan said that the Defense Ministry was stipulating the plan's approval on its involvement, and demanding that the professional positions opened for its execution will be allocated to it rather than to other ministries.

Until this dispute is solved, the plan is stalled. In recent weeks there was a conference at the Hebrew University with the participation of government ministries and green organizations, who are refusing to take part in this plan as they were not consulted during its drafting. At the conference, the Environmental Protection Ministry presented the severe environmental problems in the West Bank, which stem from Israeli presence and an absence of environmental protection activity on the part of the Palestinian Authority, among other things. Figures presented in the conference show that there are at least 40 sites in the West Bank where garbage is frequently burned. According to the ministry's conference presentation, there is a need for 26 new professional positions to handle the hazards.

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The Environmental Protection Ministry said in response to the opposition's criticism: "The Ma'aleh Adumim recycling park has been promoted by the Ma'aleh Adumim Economic Company [a city-owned development company] for years, within the framework of an approved statutory plan for the landfill site. In accordance with the waste strategy led by this ministry and in cooperation with the municipality, a facility that creates energy from waste is being promoted in order to deal with the increase in the amount of waste and in its treatment. The park is situated several kilometers east of Ma'aleh Adumim in the area of Mishor Adumim East. As for the construction of the recycling facility, there is no disagreement regarding its budgeting."

The Defense Ministry refused to comment.