Top Israeli Court Orders State to Clear Palestinian Area It Turned Into Landfill

Israel Railways dumped tons of dirt onto Palestinian land next to the West Bank settlement of Nili to be used for a park, ignoring orders to cease and desist

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

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered Israel Railways to clear construction waste dumped nearly a decade ago in the West Bank, in an area that covered a dry river bed and private Palestinian land.

Seven years ago, the Civil Administration ordered Israel Railways to cease and desist after discovering that it was dumping the waste into the area, located near the settlement of Nili. The waste, generated during the digging of a new tunnel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, was brought to the area as part of a plan to build a park for the settlement - work which was later halted.

About 30 dunams (7.5 acres), about half the dump site, was private Palestinian land. A petition was filed on behalf of the owners in 2014 demanding that the dirt, which had turned their land into an enormous garbage heap, be removed, but the state and Israel Railways both denied responsibility.

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The High Court has now ordered the state to clear the land within a day of the ruling. Justice Uzi Fogelman prefaced the decision by writing he found it regrettable that talks to find a resolution took so long. He added that even though the order against the dumping was not directed at Israel Railways, “the railway is directly responsible for the earthworks. Thus, there is no reason to avoid enforcing the order.”

Fogelman ordered the railway “to restore the land as much as possible to the condition it was in before dumping the earth in 2012.” Likewise, the justice ordered the railway to pay the petitioners’ legal fees, amounting to 40,000 shekels ($11,400). He was joined in his decision by justices Daphne Barak-Erez and George Karra.

Attorney Alaa Mahagna welcomed the decision. “This is one of the rare occasions that Palestinian petitioners have received effective assistance,” he said. But, he complained the decision came seven years too late.

“Israel Railways tried to evade responsibility,” he said. “The story isn’t over, as they were given another year to comply with the ruling beyond the time that has already past. Now we have to wait and see that the decision is carried out, and that the situation is brought back to normal.”