On Tuesday evening, ten members of Congress from the Democratic Party arrived at the Psagot home of Binyamin Regional Council head Yisrael Gantz, as part of a J Street tour. Earlier in the day, the group visited Ramallah.
Gantz welcomed the group and showed them documentation illustrating a large number of serious environmental hazards caused by the Palestinian Authority and Arabs living in Judea and Samaria.
From the balcony of his home, Gantz pointed to a large landfill in the distance, located near the entrance to Ramallah, and related that local Arabs use it as a garbage dump, burning refuse which causes choking smoke to billow across a huge swathe of land.
He also showed the group documentation of streams contaminated with sewage and construction debris, unofficial garbage dumps, illegal quarries, and pollution of water sources and nature.
Gantz told the members of Congress that, "The international approach that automatically displays sympathy and forgiveness for the Arabs only serves to encourage the environmental pollution of these valuable territorial resources here in the Middle East.
Gantz also raised the issue of infrastructure and the need for investment in major traffic arteries. "Instead of preventing Israel from developing the area, you could be helping us to build here. Everyone travels on the roads, both Jews and Arabs. I have no doubt that your desire to be our partners in growth is genuine, and all I ask is that you act wisely," he told his guests.
The visitors thanked Gantz for his welcome and added that for the first time, they were hearing things from a different perspective, making this visit extremely positive and meaningful.
liana Passentin, International Desk Director for the Binyamin Regional Council, said, "It’s time to start thinking out of the box. There are common concerns that we can work on together, such as environmental issues. I want to thank you for coming to hear up close about our challenges and hopefully we will be able to work together on solutions.”
Passentin also shared her experiences as a mother of small children living in the Binyamin Region.
J Street CEO Israel Nadav Tamir said at the conclusion of the visit: "As with all J Street tours, we also hold meetings in the settlements, in order to expose members of Congress to as many perspectives as possible from the various shades of Israeli and Palestinian society."
Earlier this month, Yisrael Gantz visited the US Congress in order to shore up support for the settlement lobby there.