Illegal Palestinian Settlements

The world is hung up on so-called “illegal” Israeli settlements.  But, no-one seems to care that the Palestinians have many illegal settlements on the West Bank, consisting of ca. 120,000 people, and that the EU and some of its constituent countries, that are criticizing Israel for illegal settlements (that are actually legal), are funding the establishment of these illegal Palestinian settlements.  What hypocrisy, what chutzpah!

This analysis is based on an excellent research article entitled “Knowing your A B C: a primer on understanding the different areas of Judea and Samaria,” by Hillel Frisch of the BESA (Begin-Sadat) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, that appeared in The Jerusalem Post, March 25 (http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Knowing-your-ABC-448963). The “A, B and C” mentioned are the areas of Judea and Samaria (to use their correct geographical names that have been called for journalistic purposes The West Bank), that were divided between Israel and the PLO according to the September 1995 interim agreement known as the Olso II Accord.

Area A comprising ca. 18%, consists of the then-formed Palestine Authority (PA) that has political and military jurisdiction over its Arab inhabitants.  This Area includes all major Arab cities, comprising ca. 95% of all Arab inhabitants (the only exception is Hebron that was divided under the 1997 Hebron protocol between Israel and the PLO).  The establishment of the PA in Area A (including Gaza) was what enabled Yasir Arafat to return from exile to Palestine under the Government of PM Yitzhak Rabin.  The Agreement envisaged access to Area A for Israeli citizens and the IDF.

Area B comprising ca. 22%, in which Israel and the PA share jurisdiction.  Israel has exclusive authority over the Jewish inhabitants and security control for both Jews and Arabs, while the PA has political and police jurisdiction over the Arabs.  However, according to the Accord signed by  the PLO the IDF and the Israeli police are allowed to enter and make arrests in all of Area B.

Area C is the largest part constituting ca. 60%, over which Israel has exclusive and total jurisdiction.  This was agreed to by the PLO because this region, mostly east of the spine of mountains that dissects the area, contains almost no Arabs.  It is here that Israel, legally under the Accord signed by the PLO, has developed most of its settlements, which are neither illegal according to the Oslo Accord nor of previous international agreements (including the San Remo Treaty of 1923 and the British Mandate, ratified by the League of Nations and its successor the UN).

Frisch in this article seeks to evaluate the current situation regarding these three Areas and the changes that have gradually occurred.  After the Accord was signed the Israeli Government took a hands off approach to the PA in Area A and its encroachment on other areas, including Jerusalem, that was not included in the Accords.  However, Arafat cooperated with Hamas and unleashed the Second Intifada on Israel in 2000, resulting in the murder of ca. 1,050 Jews.  As a result the IDF eventually carried out Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 (with US approval) to clean out the terrorist networks that had been organized since the Accords.  The lesson of this was that Israel needed much greater access to Areas A and B to have intelligence as well as security.  However, Area A is effectively off-limits to all Israelis and for the most part the IDF.  Preventive arrests of suspected terrorists resulted in a great reduction in the incidence of terrorism (the Europeans would do well to follow this practice) as well as the construction of the Security Barrier.

The major political fight is now focusing on Area C, where the PA with the connivance of the UN, the EU and the Arab countries, have conspired to declare all Israeli settlements in Area C “illegal,” while at the same time expanding (invisibly) illegal Arab settlement in Area C.  Why is this “invisible”, because the PA does not advertise its settlement policy, it does not name or state the date of the initiation of construction as does Israel (according to routine norms).  As Frisch points out, these illegal settlements, including hundreds of 6-10 story buildings, are mainly along the main highways of the West Bank, including such places outside Jerusalem as Ras Khamis, Ras Shahada, A-Zaim and all the way down the Ma’ale-Adumim – Jericho Road.  They are estimated to house ca. 120,000 Arabs (more than the number of Jews in that area) living in towns that have little or no PA administration.

However, these Arab “settlements”:serve a double purpose, first to undermine exclusive Israeli control of Area C and second they are clearly a major security risk for Israel.  Who knows what terrorist activities are being planned there, just outside the main roads to Israel?   So the obvious question is why doesn’t Israel enter and clear out these areas in force.  The answer is simple, fear; fear of the Israeli Government over the consequences. They would rather wait and see if Israel starts taking casualties from there, as they did before, rather than preemptively and legally enter and try to remove these illegal Arab “settlements.”

Israel knows that the EU and specific governments (Sweden, Germany, Qatar, Kuwait) are financing these serttlements.  However, with the current Obama Administration they are not likely to receive US support for any such action, and the US is likely to regard such an action as “illegal and disproportionate.”  This is because the US is wedded to the idea of a two-state solution (not gonna happen) and therefore believes that Israeli settlements are “illegal” as they might prevent the formation of a Palestine State. So notwithstanding that Israel is a strong and democratic US ally and the Palestinians are anti-American terrorist scum, they won’t countenance Israeliaction.  There is little doubt that these illegal Arab settlements, while Israel is hardly building at all in Judea and Samaria, constitute a new basis for conflict and a great danger to Israel.

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