In many West Bank villages people are giving up cultivating a good share of their land at the edges of their property due to harassment by Israelis who have settled the area, both before and after September 2000.
Sometimes it is a fence and a security road built around various settlements long before September 2000. The fence included hundreds of fruit trees, the livelihoods of dozens of families. By definition that cultivated land, that fenced-in land, is lost. Now that has become the fate of the lands trapped between the Green Line and the separation fence. Since before September 2000 and to this day, West Bank viallagers have been served with court orders for the destruction of their homes or the uprooting of their orchards. They had encroached on state lands, said the civil administration.
Theoretically there is no connection between the two series of events. There is no common thread. Only the Israeli reaction: here it’s a security fence, there it’s the expropriation of land for bypass roads (today devoid of Palestinian vehicles), and there, it’s honoring laws (military orders) or maybe military needs (firing ranges). Sometimes it’s “those crazy settlers,” here the topographic conditions dictate that the fence move eastward, there it’s due to natural increase.
After all, no one intended to damage the Palestinians’ property, their sources of livelihood, their space, their family life, their studies, their communities, their ability to develop industrial zones, their long-standing orchards, their water wells. But the singular result is that the Palestinians have been harmed and they are being crowded into isolated “territorial cells” (another handy military term) that more or less coincide with Areas A and B as delineated in the Oslo Accords, and determined during the years of Ehud Barak’s government – before the resumption of the blood feud. This means 40 percent of the territory (scattered about). A coincidence?
The common response is that the Palestinians rejected the generous offers of Camp David (over which there is still a dispute regarding the size of the territory that Israel planned to return to the Palestinians, uncertainty regarding the calculation of the original territory and the size of the settlements). But even Camp David ultimately offered the Palestinians “territorial cells” split by bypass roads and large settlements.
During the Oslo years, the military authorities and the civil administration ordered a few thousand Palestinians to leave the lands on which they had lived for years. Usually these lands were “peripheral” – like in the Jordan Valley or in the South Hebron Hills. Sometimes the displaced Palestinians were ones who had bad luck and whose private lands were surrounded by “state lands” into which an adjacent settlement was expanding (like Givat Zeev or Ma’aleh Adumim). When the soldiers executing the orders were asked, “But where shall we go?” they responded, “Go to Area A” or “Go to Arafat.”
A new round of soldiers, now guarding at the roadblocks between Areas B and C (60 percent of the territory in the West Bank, under Israeli security and administration) often explain that they are “guarding the State of Israel” – and point out that Area C is “the State of Israel.”
A coincidence? A slip of the tongue? It is often possible to learn from 19- or 20-year-old soldiers concerning the real line of thinking they have absorbed from their officers and commanders – who reflect the long-range thinking emerging from the military and political echelons.
During the Oslo years and now the thought processes are similar, even if the size of the territorial cells is different. The property rights of private Palestinians will be preserved as long as there is no security need to infringe on them. Lands whose private Palestinian ownership cannot be proved are state lands, the state is Israel; those eligible to benefit from the lands are Jews only.
In order to maintain the security of the Jews on this state land, which was conquered in 1967, it is permissible to infringe on private Palestinian land, to destroy dozens of villages that are hundreds of years old and cause the migration of their inhabitants. It is impossible to evacuate a Jewish settlement that was built 30 years ago.
The residential rights of the private Jew determine the application of Israeli sovereignty. The property rights of the private Palestinian do not ensure sovereign Palestinian existence. And the execution is commensurate: a dunam here, a dunam there. As if there was no connection. Before 2000 this was done in the name of security and the natural increase of the Jewish population. Now it is a response to the Palestinian offensive against us in September 2000. There is no master plan.