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The ‘Green Line’ is anything but green

What kind of legislation can improve the dire state of sewage, waste disposal and drinking water for Palestinians?

In recent years, uneducated critics of Israel have time and again likened it to apartheid South Africa. This analogy is so ridiculous and so misconstrued that I refuse to waste any more words on it. I do, however, wish to address one of the main allegations raised by apartheid-fans in support of their claim. And that is the issue of infrastructure.

As a soldier during my compulsory service, I carried out missions on more than one occasion in the Palestinian refugee camp of Kalandia. I will never forget the stench. The refugee camp sits at the top of a steep hill. As my comrades and I climbed the hill towards the main camp, my nose cringed from the strong stench of urine and my boots creamed over when confronted with the heavy flow of excrement and food-waste seeping out of every alleyway in the refugee camp, making its way down the hill where it gathered in a heap of waste at the bottom. The people of Kalandia, devoid of any formal waste disposal or sewage system have no choice but to simply throw their garbage over the edge of the village and to let their toilet-pipes run out the back of their homes, straight onto the floor where they walk to school and work.

This isn’t a problem we can just ignore or dismiss as a “Palestinian issue.” Many Palestinian villages, in a similar state to that of Kalandia, are situated in close proximity to Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. As a result, the waste surrounding these villages also poses an environmental threat to their neighboring Jewish counterparts. Furthermore, the issue is far from restricted to the West Bank. As noted by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes – “all streams flow into the sea”. One example of this is the [polluted] Nablus Stream which flows into the Hadera Stream and eventually pours into the Mediterranean Sea.

In short, this is everybody’s problem and if something isn’t done, and fast, the results will likely be widespread throughout the nation.

It is for this reason that we have chosen to act. “We” refers to myself and my colleagues at Machon Emet, a recently established Jerusalem-based research institute focused on drafting and promoting policy-shaping legislation on issues of public-policy and economics.

My relationship with Machon Emet began a little under a year ago. I came across an advertisement in the paper urging young lawyers and students to send in applications to join a new research institute that was slowly taking shape in Jerusalem. Following a rigorous application process, I was accepted into the machon together with eight other students and lawyers. As an initial step, each fellow was tasked with researching a specific issue, with the hope of generating legislation relevant to their topic.

In light of the issue illustrated above, I was tasked with drafting a bill that would implement “green” (environmental) laws in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. After much research as to the environmental threats facing Judea and Samaria, I have concluded that it would be wisest to focus our energies on three main systems: sewage/infrastructure, water purification and waste disposal, as these three things are all intertwined and set the environmental tone, eventually creating more critical issues.

These are major challenges. My colleagues and I have met with members of Knesset as well as Knesset legal advisers who have all expressed interest in promoting this bill and seeing it through to fruition.

However, as you can imagine, these are not simple problems to deal with. Each one of the three subjects I have listed is a world within itself. It is very hard to pinpoint where and how exactly to implement these issues, and it is especially hard to decide how to present it to parliament in a way that it won’t seem too tedious or cumbersome [or expensive] to implement. The bill is still in draft form. At this point it can still be interpreted and thus implemented in any of a hundred different ways. Presently, prior to bringing the bill to its first reading, I am engaging in meetings with a host of different “green” organizations, such as Yarok Achshav etc.

And so, in true democratic style, I wish to put it to you, the public, and to ask – what do you think? What should the bill include and how should it be implemented? Is this a worthy cause or a complete waste of time? Please comment and share your thoughts.

About the Author
Yitz Hammer lives with his wife and two children in Netanya; He made aliyah from the U.S. in 2000, studied in Otniel Hesder Yeshiva and served in the Combat Engineering Corps; Yitzy is currently studying towards an LL.B. in Law and a B.A. in Government at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliah, where he works as a research assistant in the subject of Jewish Law; Yitz's interests include photography, history, international law, music and writing. Most recently, Yitzy has joined the ranks of StandWithUs, the pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, as a participant in their Israel Fellowship.