Dividing the cost burden of environmental services: The Israeli-Palestinian wastewater regime

Adam Schalimtzek, Itay Fischhendler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Effective cooperation over wastewater control requires that wastewater treatment costs be allocated equitably to the parties involved. The Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) remains the dominant cost-sharing principle although there is considerable criticism surrounding it. This study tries to identify the appealing characteristics of the PPP even when it seems highly inappropriate, such as in instances of drastic asymmetry and political conflict. Exploring the case of Palestinian transboundary wastewater from the West Bank flowing towards Israel, it shows that under asymmetrical conditions accompanied by political turmoil the PPP is adopted due to a political lack of choice rather than efficiency, effectiveness and equity considerations, as is often presented in the environmental literature. The result is that adopting the PPP leads to environmentally inferior solutions in the form of non-comprehensive and end-of-pipe solutions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)612-632
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The turning point in the governmental policy was a petition submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court in April 2002 by several local communities and environmental bodies, demanding a government-funded solution to the Hebron Stream sewage problem. This request was supported by the Ministry of Environment, which refused to pay its share and insisted that the funding should come from the Ministry of Finance until the offset mechanism could be activated (Inbar 2002). Indeed, in June 2002 things changed in the Ministry of Finance, which agreed to expand the offset mechanism to include wastewater treatment (Lovenstein 2007); in early 2003 the move was approved by the government (Government of Israel 2003). This way, all Israeli actors were satisfied: the local authorities and the Ministry of Environment could solve the environmental problem, while the Palestinians were paying. Using the offset mechanism actually created an extreme form of the PPP, since treatment is according to high Israeli standards, and plans to upgrade and expand the facilities will require future offsets of even higher sums (State of Israel 2004). Nevertheless, the PA’s approval had to be obtained for every deduction.


  • Asymmetry
  • Cost burden
  • Environmental services
  • Israel
  • Palestinians
  • Polluter pays principle
  • Transboundary pollution
  • Wastewater


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