CMEP Bulletin: Does Area C = Israel?
While headlines often focus on plans to build new Israeli settlements, settlements themselves are a part of Area C, established under the Oslo Accords, that makes up 62% of the West Bank. It is under full Israeli control. Area C includes most of the West Bank that is not Palestinian towns, villages or actively farmed.
It includes the resource rich Jordan Valley and the area called E-1 east of Jerusalem that unites the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. It is the land where new and existing Palestinian communities should be able to develop; it is an important source of water and mineral resources. Without Area C a viable Palestinian state would not be possible.
Israeli policies have systematically laid the groundwork for making Area C part of Israel. The Civil Administration, the Orwellian name for the military authority that governs the West Bank, requires zoning approval and building permits for new construction that are almost never approved for Palestinians while Israeli construction proceeds apace. Israeli demolition orders are issued for Palestinian structures built without licenses; according to the UN over 11,000 demolition orders are currently outstanding in Area C.
According to B’Tselem, Area C is now divided up in overlapping ways that further preclude Palestinian development:
Israeli expansionism, combined with policies that suppress Palestinian development, has meant the number of Israelis now exceeds the number of Palestinians in Area C. The settler population there is now over 350,000. Estimates of the Palestinian population in Area C vary from 50,000 to 300,000; estimates vary as some Palestinian towns and villages are partly in, and partly out of, Area C.
Source Human Rights Watch, The World Bank (2013)
Last month Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel echoed other calls for the annexation of Area C by Israel. Previously he called for Israeli settlement building in area E-1. Prime Minister Netanyahu has distanced himself from his Ministers on the subject, but restrictions on Palestinians development in Area C remain.
As a recent example the Civil Administration last week demolished 23 homes and structures in two Palestinian communities in the south Hebron hills which had been home to 78 people, including 60 children and minors. The reason given for the demolition was lack of permits, even though natural growth and overcrowding led residents to build without permits. There are 12 other villages in the area under demolition orders so the Israeli military can use the land for training.
The European Union has an active program of assisting development of Palestinian villages in this region, including providing electricity by way of solar cells and batteries. It has been reported that after the EU announced in November the requirement to label products imported from the settlements, Israel took a number of steps to show its displeasure, including demolition of EU projects in Area C.
Churches for Middle East Peace