Reposted from Occupation Magazine.
The 1995 Oslo framework for administering the occupied West Bank, dividing the land into zones A, B, and C, was intended as a temporary arrangement, to be in effect while a permanent status agreement was being negotiated. Area C, under temporary Israeli military control, was to be gradually transferred to full Palestinian jurisdiction.
Since 1995, the map of those temporary arrangements has been used by Israel as a blueprint for a permanent system of separation and apartheid.
The provision in the interim agreement for the IDF to redeploy to “specified military locations” has been used, and continues to be used, as a pretext for claiming vast sections of area C, and clearing them of their Palestinian inhabitants. In famous comments from 2001, Benjamin Netanyahu stated this goal very clearly: “I'm going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the '67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I'm concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue.”
Israel continues to pursue the tactic described in those comments, not only using military pretexts to claim permanent jurisdiction, but to clear large expanses of area C of their Palestinian inhabitants. Netanyahu was referring to the Jordan Valley, where this summer occupation forces have stepped up a campaign against the local Palestinian communities. Refusing to grant permits for any construction in these villages, the army is now carrying out numerous demolition orders in the villages of the Tubas municipality. The Alternative Information Center reports that on June 24, 9 buildings in the village of Al Maleh were demolished, including 4 homes. The army regularly confiscates water tanks representing the villages’ only source of water.
A similar scenario is playing out in another area, the Hebron Hills region of the Southern West Bank. Here too, a military order has turned the area where Palestinians have lived since Ottoman times into “Firing Zone 918.” The demolition of eight villages has already been ordered. On August 7, the occupation forces conducted a raid of intimidation in one of these villages, Khirbet Jenbah. Two helicopters landed in the village without warning, and proceeded to ferry in soldiers and supplies for a command center. From that spot, masked soldiers entered the village, searching the cave dwellings, taking photos. This was the third such operation in the area.
On Wednesday, 8 August, a delegation of European Union heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah visited the area of the South Hebron Hills. Accompanied by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, the group said that the transfer of up to 1800 people from their own lands, while under occupation, was a violation of international law.
In both the Jordan Valley and the Hebron Hills, the official actions of the army are aided by the unofficial methods of settlers. Several times in recent years, members of the Massu’a settlement in the Jordan Valley have grabbed lands of the village of Abu Al Ajaj. The confiscation of land for supposedly military purposes is often a means to simply channel it to the growing settlements. The settlement of Ro’I in the owners.
The settlers of the South Hebron Hills have been gradually confiscating the lands of the Palestinian village of Susya. On 23-24 July, Israelis from the settlement of the same name, Susya, invaded lands of the Haddar family, fencing it in and thus preventing its owners from accessing it. When occupation police finally responded to the Palestinian complaints, and declared the construction illegal, the settlers entered the Palestinian village to attack the inhabitants. As in the past, as Amira Hass has reported in Haaretz, the army has not removed the settlers as they continue to convert the privately-owned land of their Palestinian neighbors into their own farmland.
Israel has always used the continual development of the settlements to create facts on the ground that will prevent the use of lands in area C for a future Palestinian State. But the presence of settlements is only one side of this strategy. The absence of Palestinians is the other.