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April 28, 2016 8:53 am

Israeli MK Launches Environmental War Against Flow of Unchecked, Untreated Palestinian Sewage Into Joint Waterways (INTERVIEW)

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Likud MK Sharren Haskel. Photo: Hadar Selekter/ Wikimedia Commons.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel. Photo: Hadar Selekter/ Wikimedia Commons.

Israel is facing a major environmental crisis as the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to pollute the country’s main waterways with sewage, despite funding and a commitment to cease the practice, a Knesset member told The Algemeiner in an interview. 

MK Sharren Haskel — at 32, the Likud party’s youngest member and the second youngest member of the current Knesset — explained: “The Palestinians agreed under the Oslo Accords to build treatment plants and recycle their sewage water. The PA committed to deal with these issues and has received hundreds of millions of dollars in international funding from Europe and the US to do so,” Haskel said. “However, Palestinian runoff water — both household sewage and industrial waste, which contains carcinogens — flows into Israeli cities each day, because they’ve failed to build water-treatment facilities.”

The Likud MK said that there are about 33 rivers connected to PA-controlled territory, which flow directly into Israeli waterways, such as the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean and the Alexander River in Caesarea. “Environmental issues are really complicated, because air and water do not have borders. If you pollute in one place, it will end up in Tel Aviv or Haifa. If there is air pollution in Qalqilya, for example, it will end up in my hometown of Kfar Saba. The reality of the situation is much more complex than it appears,” Haskel said.

She also said that Israel offered a solution that was rejected by the PA. “Israel built treatment facilities in Ariel and constructed several inlets for the Palestinians in Salfit to connect to. We told officials there, ‘Plug your sewage into our lines.’ The PA government forbade them. This is what Israel is facing,” she said, adding. “About 41 percent of all the water Israel uses is desalinated. This is incredible, because we are a country that really is a desert and barely receives any rain. We have the technology and know-how, but the PA refuses to let us help them. This is just another example of the total failure in the way the PA is running things and will not cooperate with Israel.”

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Haskel has made it her mission to raise awareness on this issue both in Israel — “where many people don’t even realize this is happening” — and in the international community, which she she believes could hold the PA accountable. “After so many years and so much funding going into building up the Palestinian’s infrastructure, where has all the money gone? We know where it all ends up — in the pockets of PA officials or terrorist organizations,” she said.

Despite Palestinian backlash, Haskel said, that Israel is taking unprecedented steps towards resolving the crisis. “Italy donated 50 million Euros to build a treatment facility for the Palestinians, which will be built with Israeli mediation. Israel will make sure the money is going directly to the contractors. Someone will be on the ground overseeing how it is spent. A team will work with the Palestinians until they can operate the facility themselves,” she explained.

Politically, Haskel has taken it upon herself to inform governments and NGOs abroad of the situation on the ground and the “irreversible damage the PA is causing not just to people, but to nature as well.” According to the freshman MK, newly published research about the PA’s sewage pollution is being translated into English, French and German, and will be sent to “officials so they can understand the issue make sure funding goes to the right cause and not into the pockets of PA officials.”

Before entering the Knesset in August 2015 — replacing MK Danny Danon, who was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the UN — Haskel was an activist in the environment committee of the Kfar Saba municipality.

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