Israel's Top Court Slams State Rail Company for Dumping Waste on Private Palestinian Land

Waste was dumped in 2011 but never cleaned, with government as Israel Railways each claiming the other is responsible for disposal

The hill of waste excavated for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail line below the Nili settlement in the West Bank in 2017.
Emil Salman

A High Court of Justice panel took Israel Railways to task at a hearing on Monday for turning a site near the West Bank settlement of Nili into a dump site in 2011 and not clearing it since. Two of the justices hinted that they would rule against the railroad in the case.

"It will be hard for it to evade responsibility, Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman regarding the railroad's responsibility to remove the waste from the land.

The site had been used for refuse excavated during the construction of the tunnels for the new Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail line. The waste was dumped in 2011 in a dry river bed, a wadi, and on about another 30 dunams (7.5 acres) of open land, about half of which is owned by the Palestinians who filed the High Court petition. The landfill was moved to the site as part of a plan to develop a park for the Nili settlement.

In 2012, the Israeli Civil Administration ordered work at the dump site stopped. The Palestinian petitioners filed their case two years later demanding that the excavated waste be removed from their land.

>> Israel presents: How to legalize West Bank settlements built on private Palestinian land

The government and Israel Railways each alleged that the other is responsible for removing the landfill, an operation that is expected to cost several million shekels. Lawyers for Israel Railways said the state had not offered the railroad a site for the landfill, but a lawyer representing the government claimed that the railwys were connected with two quarries in the area that could have been used instead. The lawyer added that the querries say the railways has not contacted them. 

When a representative of the State Prosecutor's Office said: "We are here by virtue of the railroad's legal hairsplitting," Vogelman said it was difficult to quibble with that, as the government’s attorney was "apparently correct." 

At the conclusion of the hearing, the three justices, Vogelman, Daphne Barak-Erez and George Karra, ordered a contractor allegedly involved in transporting the waste from the tunnel excavation sites to be added as a party to the case, but they said it would not significantly delay their ruling on the matter.