Right-wing Israeli politician aims to annex 65 percent of West Bank
Economic Minister Naftali Bennett proposed annexing Area C of the West Bank, which is home to some 300,000 Palestinians (File/AFP)
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The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has warned that the Israeli occupation plans to annex Area C of the West Bank and detach it from Palestinian population centres there.
Following the collapse of the recent peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, Palestinians believe that the occupying power intends to punish them by trying to take over the area, said a senior Palestinian official.
Area C comprises 65 percent of the West Bank, and houses most of the illegal Jews-only colonies that the Israelis have built since their occupation of the area in 1967.
The Palestinians recently struck an internal reconciliation pact between the Islamist Hamas group and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and joined 15 international treaties and conventions in response to the Israeli regime’s continued building of colonies. Both moves angered the occupying regime.
According to the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three areas, Area A, which is controlled by the PNA in administrative and security affairs, Area B whose administrative affairs are controlled by the PNA and security by Israel, whereas Area C is fully and exclusively controlled by the occupation in administrative and security matters.
According to a Stability Plan proposed by the Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Palestinians should have sovereignty in Areas A and B of the West Bank and Israel should not interfere in the areas’ day-to-day governance, but Israel should immediately annex Area C and the Palestinians living in this region will be offered Israeli citizenship.
“Annexing Area C would limit [the] conflict by reducing the size of the territory in dispute, which would make it easier to one day reach a long-term peace agreement,” Bennett wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
He maintained that the annexation of Area C would mean Israel controls occupied east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital for their future state, as well as Islamic religious sites.
Meanwhile, an Israeli army officer revealed at a Knesset committee meeting that military training in live fire zones in the West Bank is used as a way of reducing the number of Palestinians living nearby, and serves as an important part of the campaign against Palestinian construction there.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Col Einay Shalev, operations officer of Central Command, revealed the method used to reduce construction work and the Palestinian population in Area C while addressing a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, which was discussing ways to expel Palestinian residents from areas of occupied Jerusalem such as E1, the Jordan Valley and Hebron.
Col Shalev said that the Israeli occupation has increased its training in the Jordan Valley to prevent Palestinian construction.
General Yoav Mordechai, the General Coordinator of the Israeli Government Activities in the West Bank, said that his bureau has lodged official complaints immediately to embassies of countries whose organisations were involved in Palestinian construction.
Col Shalev said that the occupation has been confiscating all humanitarian aid before it can get to its destination. Because of the Israeli confiscation policy, the Red Cross has decided to stop providing tents to shepherd communities whose houses and other building were destroyed by the Israeli military.
Far right and ultra orthodox members of the Knesset urged the Israeli military to crack down on international groups who assist Palestinian construction.
International aid organisations have devoted the vast majority of their humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Area C as those organisations believe the infrastructure there is a mere Israeli obligation as an occupying force, but the Israeli authorities categorically deny Palestinian communities water, electricity and other facilities.
Majid Al Fityani, the Palestinian Governor of Jericho and the Jordan Valley areas said that the PNA is aware of Israeli plans in Area C, warning that the PNA “will not keep [their] mouth shut about the Israeli aggression and annexation of almost two thirds of the already occupied West Bank,” he told Gulf News.
“Prior to the start of the Israeli military training in live fire zone, Israel sealed off 85 per cent of the Jordan Valley areas and declared them closed military zones and now Israel dedicates 11 per cent of the region’s total area to the Israeli colonists who control 95 per cent of the water resources in the region,” he said, adding that now, the Palestinians of the Jordan Valley areas are totally surrounded.
“Residents of the Jordan Valley areas get weekly notes from the Israeli military to evacuate their homes on Thursdays and Fridays for the military trainings,” he said, adding that this process has become a regular occurrence but the determined Palestinian residents return to their homes and farms when the Israeli training is completed. “In the past 20 years, not even a single security incident has been reported in the Jordan Valley areas at all,” he stressed. “Israel wants to annex the Area C region once and for all but that can’t be connected in any way with Israel security,” he said.
Al Fityani said that Israel is currently in the process of accommodating 15,000 new colonists in the Jordan Valley areas and all the Israeli measures are meant to expel as many Palestinian local residents as possible.
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