The Supreme Court ruled recently that Israel
could enforce environmental laws and regulations on charcoal kilns located in Area C of the West Bank.
There are some 400 kilns operating in the West Bank, producing 1,600 tons of charcoal every month – the majority of which is sold to Israel, which also provides 90% of their kilns' raw material.
The majority of the charcoal production hubs used to be located in Area C. Their operation caused severe air pollution that has prompted the area's residents to petition to court and ask that the relevant legislation be enforced in the area. But jurisdiction was unclear.
According to the Oslo Accords,
the West Bank is essentially divided into three jurisdiction zones: Area A, which is under the Palestinian Authority's
exclusive jurisdiction; Area B, where the PA has civilian jurisdiction and Israel has security jurisdiction; and Area C, which is under Israel's exclusive jurisdiction.
Several petitions were filed with the court, both by residents suffering from air pollution and by kiln owners, who asserted their right to operate private business.
The court's deliberation stretched, and in the meantime, many charcoal kiln owners relocated their businesses to Area B – where Israel has no civil jurisdiction. Currently, only seven kilns still operate out of Area C.
Faced with the bureaucracy, several residents filed a High Court petition against the State for failing to prevent a health hazard.
Over the summer, the Environmental Protection Ministry
launched a campaign meant to shut down charcoal kilns using zoning and business laws, and also cracked down on unregulated deliveries of raw materials to kilns.
Face with the kilns' "migration" to Area B, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan
said that the risk the kilns pose to public health "amount to terror," and asked the government to review the situation and see whether Israel could define them as "a security risk" and thus assume special jurisdiction that will allow it to act against them in Area B.