The state has suspended a plan to forcibly relocate Bedouin from East Jerusalem to a site next to a city garbage dump. The state told the High Court of Justice two weeks ago it was putting off the plan until surveys were conducted to assess the environmental repercussions and hazards involved.
Some 2,400 Palestinian Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe petitioned the High Court against the state's intention to evict them from their village and relocate hundreds of them, against their will, to a neighborhood barely 75 meters from a landfill site in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem.
Since the Civil Administration prepared the relocation plan in 2005, officials in charge of environmental affairs have warned against settling people so close to an active landfill site. The officials even voted against the plan at one stage.
But the Civil Administration went ahead with the plan despite the warnings and even speeded it up at the end of last year, according to documents that the state attached to its response to the petition.
"Nowhere in the world or in Israel are people housed near an active pirate garbage dump... it's irresponsible to place people there," said Nitzan Levy, CEO of the Municipal Environmental Associations of Judea and Samaria..
But this too did not stop the administration from moving ahead with the plan.
Earlier this year the state promised the Bedouin leaders and senior UN officials that the Bedouin community would not be required to move next to the garbage dump, as was initially proposed.
But since then various Civil Administration inspectors and officials have told the Bedouin that their forced relocation to an unknown place was drawing closer, prompting the Bedouin to file a High Court petition against their eviction. The petition also protests the fact that the administration planned their relocation without consulting them.
The petition was submitted by five members of the recently formed Bedouin Protection Committee and the NGO, Bimkom Planners for Planning Rights.
Israel has been restricting the Bedouin's pasture and nomadic areas in the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem for years. Previous petitions have been filed against the authorities' refusal to permit the Bedouin to build homes and connect their communities to infrastructure. In its reply, the state said it was planning to concentrate the Bedouins in permanent communities.
Evicting the Bedouin from the East Jerusalem area is in keeping with plans to expand the West Bank settlements in the Ma'aleh Adumim area in order to form a contiguous strip of Jewish settlements from there until Jerusalem.
The initial plan to forcibly move hundreds of Bedouin to the site near the Abu Dis municipal dump, initially disclosed in September by Haaretz, sparked opposition from the Jahalin tribe and a number of Israeli and international human rights groups. The European Union condemned the plan, and UN-affiliated organizations came out against it as well.
Although the Civil Administration appears to be backtracking on the relocation to Abu Dis, it is not retracting its plan to concentrate the Bedouin population of the area in one location, which clashes with their traditional nomadic lifestyle.
In its answer two weeks ago, the state asked the High Court to deny the petition because no objections to the plan had been submitted in 2006 and because the plan had not been released and was therefore still legally invalid.
But the state's main argument for denying the petition was that the Civil Administration had decided to condition the plan's implementation on the preparation and examination of surveys assessing the environmental implications and hazards involved.
Adama, the company that conducted the environmental survey for the Bedouin relocation plan in 2006, was charged with preparing the new survey. Levy, CEO of the Municipal Enviromental Associations, said at the Civil Administration's planning council session that the survey's conclusions - that it was possible for people to live beside a garbage dump - contradicted its findings.
"The survey is excellent but its conclusion is wrong," Levy says in the meeting's protocol. "They say there may be hazards and a danger of explosion...these are the reasons not to inhabit this place and the findings contradict the conclusions. Nowhere in the world or in Israel are people housed near an active pirate garbage dump...in my opinion it's irresponsible to place people there and I'm warning the council of the danger," Levy said.
"Hazards are measurable and the question is whether there are hazards [we] can live with," the Civil Administration's assistant legal advisor Captain Valery Borodosevsky said in August 2006, at a meeting of the planing council.