The Israeli Jerusalem Municipality has been developing a plan (No. 13900) to establish a landfill in Wadi Al Rejʹiyyat area, on the lands of Anata, Issawiyya and Shuʹfat villages. So far, the program has been approved by the Local Planning and Building Committee and initially accepted by the District Planning and Building Committee prior to being deposited for public review.
The lands where the landfill is planned to be established are located near the E1 area, in the riverbed of the Og River, on a sizeable tract of 534 dunams privately owned by residents of Anata and Issawiya and next to the Shu’fat refugee camp. The master plan states that the landfill will be used to dump solid and building waste for the next 20 years and will then be rehabilitated into a national park.
Moreover, 3900 housing units are slated for construction in an attempt to expand the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and establish a geographical contiguity between the Ma’ale Adumim settlement and Israeli settlements inside the Jerusalem governate.
In addition to this, the Mount Scopus Slopes National Park is planned to be built south of Issawiya at the expense of a town plan (also approved at the Local Planning Committee) supporting local community development projects.
However, Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, and the Civil Coalition for Palestinian’s rights in Jerusalem have already submitted an objection to the plan to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee.
The master plan states that the landfill will be used to dump solid and building waste for the next 20 years and will then be rehabilitated into a national park
The criticism against the project comes from all sectors of civil society organizations. For instance, according to Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP), an independent international pressure group of design professionals, land reserves in East Jerusalem are gradually being swallowed by Israeli confiscation of land in Palestinian neighborhoods for construction and creation of national parks. The national park and waste dump projects—of arguable value to residents— would consume all land reserves for future growth of the villages around it, eliminating room for expansion of the population.
Last December, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) had already issued a statement in which it warned against Israel’s decision, and Ghalib Nashashibi, coordinator of the Center’s programs in Jerusalem, said that the Israeli project is a sensitive and serious issue, adding that the center is currently working in collaboration with experts and specialists to make an objection to this scheme especially that it may affect the health of Palestinian residents in this area as it is possible to affect the groundwater.
“The Palestinian community around the area will be affected not only in terms of environmental hazards and health but will be affected also in terms of losing their lands,” Nashashibi said.
Consequences for the population
The consequences for the daily life of more than 32.000 Palestinians living in the areas of Anata and Al- Issawiyya are several.
To Suhad Bishara, senior attorney and Head of the Land and Planning Unit of Adalah, “The Palestinian community around the area will be affected not only in terms of environmental hazards and health but will be affected also in terms of losing their lands,” adding that “In that area, Palestinian families won’t be able to build, develop and cultivate their lands.”
In Suhad’s opinion, the project of the landfill articulates the wider plan of the Israeli government: “Israel secures these territories for exclusive Jewish use, for the purposes of Israel as an occupying power. Basically, geographically, Israel is connecting the settlements in the West Bank with E1, that we know is targeted by Israel for future plans to develop settlements in the area, and with East Jerusalem.”
In fact, while settlements themselves only cover approximately 3% of the land of the West Bank, the extensive network of security apparatus, by-pass roads, barriers and infrastructure that accompany them, occupy more than 40%.
In the specific case of the landfill of Anata and Al-Issawiyya, Suhad contends, “This land will be no more Palestinian land, Palestinian neighborhoods will not be developed into this area, and this is how we secure the geographically contingency between Jerusalem, East Jerusalem and in this specific case, the French hill with E1 area, with the rest of the settlements that already exist in Area 1, which means, no more Green Line.”
The fact that settlements, along with their associated infrastructures, have been considered illegal by International Humanitarian Law, and are still a paramount part of Israel’s strategy, not only jeopardizes a future political agreement and a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but also contradicts Israel’s claim for a two state solution as it continues to tranfer large portions of its population into occupied Palestinian territory.