A MOUNTAIN of rotting rubbish marks the latest Middle East battlefield, as Palestinians
and environmentalists accuse Israel of breaking international law by dumping its
rubbish in the West Bank.
Jewish settler organisations confirm that they plan to ship 10,000 tonnes of Israeli
rubbish each month to a vast Palestinian stone quarry near Nablus, nine miles
(15km) inside the territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.
This has raised concerns over potential damage to water supplies and some of
the Palestinians’ most fertile olive-growing land.
Settler leaders and Israeli officials insist that the hole — 230ft (70m)
deep — will be lined with plastic sheeting to stop seepage into a vital
mountain aquifer and will benefit both sides. This has not reassured critics,
who accuse Israeli firms of profiting by dumping rubbish in the West Bank because
it is cheaper than in Israel.
Najib Saha, head of the council in the nearby Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf,
said: “This will be very, very bad for the whole area.
It will bring pests and reptiles, not to mention the smell, but the Israelis
do not care what happens to us in this area.”
An Israeli civil administration official confirmed yesterday that, outside
Jerusalem, the project marks the first time that rubbish has been transported
across the old Green Line, from Tel Aviv and other cities into the West Bank.
Other such dumps serve only the nearby Palestinian towns and Jewish settlements.
Extensive work has already begun on the quarry, with the base lined with sand
and gravel. The site is managed by Baron Industrial Park, a company owned by
the two nearest Jewish settlements, Kidumim and Karnei Shomron, and Shomron
Regional Council. Daniella Weiss, the Mayor of Kedumim, insisted: “It
will be cheaper, yes, but this is not our motive. The people who live in this
area, Jews and Arabs, are going to benefit.”
Although the civil administration said that it had banned household waste,
and Ms Weiss insisted that non- organic matter would be sent to a safe site
in southern Israel, The Times yesterday saw soil, clothing, plastic bags, food
cartons and plastic soft drinks bottles, all carrying Hebrew writing. In one
corner there was also a pool of filthy black, stagnant water, despite pipes
fitted to drain such effluent away. Legal experts say that the landfill could
violate international law, which prohibits an occupying power from using occupied
territory unless it benefits the local population.
“If you’re talking about trash from Israel and depositing it on
the other side of the line, you’re certainly reducing their quality of
life, and you’re doing it as an occupier,” Reuven Laster, an Israeli
lawyer, said. That, he said, “doesn’t look good under international