By Edwin Black
In the 1990s, after years of diplomatic wrangling, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Oslo Accords, envisioning a peaceful two-state solution. Under the complex Oslo Accords, the “West Bank” is divided into three separate administrative zones, Areas A, B, and C.
Area A is reserved for Palestinian civil and administrative control and seats the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Area B is governed by Palestinian civil control under a joint Israeli–Palestinian security apparatus.
Area C — also called Judea and Samaria — comprises roughly 60 percent of the West Bank. The population is divided almost equally with an estimated 325,000 Jews and 300,000 Arabs. Under the Oslo Accords, only the Israeli Civil Administration can authorize new construction in the zone — for Israeli and Arab alike.
To create a de facto Palestinian state without further negotiation or even diplomatic consultation with the Israelis, European countries, individually and through the EU, have pumped hundreds of millions of euros annually into scores of illegal state-building and related projects — called Area C “interventions.” Just one cluster of the “European Union Area C Development Programme” boasts a €300 million annual commitment, and within three years is budgeted to reach about €1.5 billion. A single 1,650-meter road near Jenin in Area C was funded with a €500,000 allocation.
The Area C Palestinian boom advances without any coordination with Israelis about land use, security, environmental impacts, or close proximity to Jewish villages. The PA’s 2014 Roots Project greatly accelerated the entire process. Thus, European governments and the PA have completed the shredding of the already-weakened Oslo agreements.
Most of new Area C settlements are not natural Arab urban growth or urban sprawl. Rather, they are often strategically scattered to effectively carve up Area C, sometimes surround Jewish villages, and sometimes push onto Israeli nature or military reserves.
From 2000 to 2012, only 211 Palestinian submissions for Israeli permits, out of 3,750 applications (5.6%) – were approved. The figure tails off for the last 4 years, 2009 through 2012, with 37 permits given from among 1,640 applications (2.3%). Area C Palestinians largely no longer apply for permits. Now, they just start building.
While the sudden development rush has been percolating into the Jewish and Israeli media, many Jewish leaders worldwide are completely unaware of this phenomenon. Many are incredulous that the Israeli government has not acted to block the illegal projects. But a security spokesman close to the Area C files located in Bet El blames the inaction on Israel’s complex legal system.
“When we discover something,” stated a security spokesman, “we give them a stop order, and if they don’t stop, they are summoned to an [adjudication] panel. But they don’t come. They go to court to enjoin us.”
These court cases are frequently financed and represented by NGOs, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The Gordian knot of legal principles to parse includes Ottoman land law from a long-dismantled empire, Jordanian law from the withdrawn 1948 illegal occupation, post-Six Day War military administrative law, and a library of international legal codes — all stoked and poked with competing maps, surveys, expert opinions, decrees, chronologies, and historical accounts.
“It can take years to decide, and without a court ruling, we cannot get close,” lamented the spokesman. He added, “Meanwhile, they are still building. We can’t do anything about it. Court can take half a year — or four years. There is no specific time. Each case is different. We have some cases that were opened 15 years ago.”
Once the court rules, if Israel takes enforcement action with bulldozers, the international headlines, EU accusations of war crimes, threats of sanctions, close-up photos of weeping people, and global uproar makes being legally right a very unappealing political idea. The EU, the NGOs, and the illegal settlers know this process.
What makes the Palestinian settlements “illegal” is the thin wisp of Oslo that remains. The Accords have now been fractured so many times that what remains is only the preserved corpse of a long-deceased vision.
At the end of July 2019, when the Israeli cabinet voted to authorize an extra 715 permits, the Palestinian response was immediate. PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh declared: “We don’t need permission from the occupying power to build our homes on our lands,” adding that the Oslo classification of land into A, B, and C “no longer exists.”
Before the year’s end, the PA is expected to issue thousands of new permits further circumventing Oslo. As Palestinian expansion roils across Area C, the prospect looms of Gaza fence-style encounters coming soon to a hill in Judea and Samaria.
As Area C dynamics become clearer, still murky is the source and route of the diverse European funding that enables this confrontation. What’s more, there is widespread fear that millions in funds are continuously funneled through entities openly accused of being affiliated with established terrorist organizations.
Edwin Black is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of “IBM and the Holocaust,” “Funding Hate,” and the journalist who in “Financing the Flames” documented the terrorist salaries now known as “Pay to Slay.”
Copyright 2019 Edwin Black. All Rights Reserved.