The state has presented the High Court of Justice a reply to a petition against the construction of a water purification plant for the settlement of Ofra on land that is privately owned by Palestinians.
By Zafrir Rinat

I would like to introduce you to the principle of relative cancellation – a legal rule that says that a defect in the activity of a government authority will not necessarily lead to the cancellation of this activity. And there is no region more suitable for implementing this wonderful principle, with the encouragement of the top legal echelon, than Judea and Samaria, an area in which the settlers’ wishes almost totally cancel the rights and needs of others.

Recently the state presented to the High Court of Justice its reply to a petition submitted by Palestinian residents through attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharia, against the construction of a water purification plant for the settlement of Ofra on land that is privately owned by Palestinians.

The facts, according to the state’s version, are quite clear. Ofra has no valid master plan or defined area of jurisdiction, and therefore cannot be granted building permits. But it has flourished and spread toward Palestinian-owned lands properly registered in the land registry.

A flourishing community needs a proper sewage purification plant and a place for it was in fact found: In the glorious tradition of Ofra, a sewage purification plant was constructed without building permits and without a master plan, and of course on privately-owned land. There even seems to be a suspicion that someone connected to the settlers issued a document that according to the State Prosecutor’s Office “looks like a building permit.”

But this entire chain of failures, distortions and violations of the law is relatively negligible compared to the profound concern of the state and the settlers for the environment. There is no other solution for sewage purification, says the state, and therefore the plant should be left in place and the area expropriated. It will also serve Palestinian villages, and that will be additional justification for its existence. One of the alternatives that was considered as a solution was using existing oxidation pools inside Ofra, but it was rejected, one reason being that the pools are next to settlers’ homes.

It is hard not to be impressed by the closing of the circle, in the course of which the settlers improved their situation while continuing to pollute the environment, and then strengthened their hold on the land even further, in order to solve the environmental problem they created. First they built settlements without permits, and oxidation pools to provide a solution for sewage. These pools are too close to the houses and too small, so they built a new plant illegally outside the community, and now they’re legalizing it, because otherwise the environment will continue to suffer.

So why should we complain about the settlers whose handiwork is drowning in sewage? The main responsibility remains that of the state, which came to their rescue after providing “a certain amount of funding,” as the State Prosecutor’s Office defined it, to build the plant. Now the Palestinian villagers who saw Ofra take over their lands are supposed to rely on the settlement to solve their sewage problem, by means of an additional piece of land it stole from them. If they don’t accept the solution, they will be forced to continue to deal with the sewage problem that makes their lives difficult too and endangers the environment. If they accept the solution, they will help to perpetuate the settlement enterprise and even grant it environmental approval.

As far as the settlers are concerned, they will certainly exploit the anticipated refusal of the villagers to use the purification plant, in order to continue with the environmental information campaign that they have recently been conducting. In its context they are urging the government to stop pollution from sewage from Palestinian communities, and reprimanding their neighbors for refusing to cooperate with the settlements in building purification facilities. They certainly will not forget to mention that their viewpoint is not related to any political solution, because after all, the only thing that interests them, as we know, is to keep the Land of Israel green and beautiful.