Disputes over natural resources are not a new part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Water, for instance, is a famous bone of contention between the two parties. Recently, however, a newer twist developed in this ongoing battle between nations.
On Monday, Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, an Israeli rights group, petitioned the High Court of Justice, seeking both an interim order and an injunction against the operation of 10 Israeli-controlled quarries in West Bank.
Michael Sfard, a lawyer for Yesh Din, argued, “Israel is transferring natural resources from the West Bank for Israeli benefit, and this is absolutely prohibited not only under international law but according to Israeli Supreme Court rulings…This is an illegal transfer of land in the most literal of senses.”
A 2008 government study found that three-quarters of the resources extracted from these quarries goes to Israel, accounting for almost a quarter of the sand and gravel Israel uses annually. International law forbids occupying powers from exploiting natural resources in the territories they control. Although Israel does not consider its ongoing military control of the West Bank as an occupation in the classical sense, Yesh Din still maintains that the extraction of rocks and sand for building materials violates international law.
Currently these quarries are Israeli-owned. Palestinians argue they must have control over their own natural resources if they are ever to have a sustainable, prospering economy. If there were a Palestinian state, the majority of these resources might still go to Israel, but Palestinians would control and benefit from this market themselves. Even prime minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, who takes a right-wing stance on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, has stressed the importance of strengthening the Palestinian economy, so he might be willing to change his stance on this particular dispute.
Beyond economic development, another these quarries also create major concern because of their environmental impact. Itamar Ben David, chief environmental planner for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said he was “surprised by how big a portion is supplied to Israel by the West Bank….One reason is clearly that planning regulations and environmental assessment are less strong in the West Bank than in Israel. In Israel, nobody wants a quarry near his residential property.”
Hassan Abu-Libdeh, a special advisor to Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, echoed these sentiments. “This industry is polluting Palestinian lands and populations,” he said.
Image Credit: gotplaid?
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