West Bank ABC

Since the Israeli occupation began in 1967, Israel has implemented a range of different methods to restrict Palestinian access to land and other resources in the occupied territories.[1]

With the Oslo Accords – an interim agreement between Israel and the PLO intended to lead to a permanent resolution of the conflict – the West Bank was divided into three areas under different jurisdictions. Since then the West Bank has been divided into what are called Areas A, B, and C. Within these areas the Palestinian and Israeli authorities have different levels of control. The idea was that over time more and more of the responsibilities and powers would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.[2] This has not happened and because no permanent resolution to the conflict has been reached, the interim situation is still in effect.[3]

Area A is under full control of the Palestinian Authority and consists primarily of urban Palestinian areas.

Area B is under Palestinian civil control and shared Palestinian and Israeli security control and includes the vast majority of the Palestinian rural areas.

Area C is under full Israeli control. Palestinian agencies are responsible for education and healthcare.[4]

Different practices for Palestinian communities and Israeli settlements

The Israeli controlled Area C constitutes about 60% of the West Bank.[5] All construction within Area C requires approval from the Israeli Civil Administration, which is an authority under the Israeli Ministry of Defence. In practice, the Israeli authorities only allow Palestinian construction within the boundaries of a specific area that has a detailed scheme from the Israeli Civil Administration. These plans cover less than 1% of Area C and a large portion of this land is already built-up.[6]

Under the current system the Palestinians are given no influence over the division of the land within Area C. Nor can they affect the zoning of their communities or the granting of permits for construction work.[7] The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Israel – at the same time as the country has greatly limited Palestinian construction – has established parallel practices for the settlements. The Israeli authorities have approved detailed plans for almost all Israeli settlements on the West Bank, where today over 300,000 settlers are living.[8] While Palestinians are excluded from the planning process, settlers fully participate and are generally responsible for planning and zoning activities within the settlements.[9] This process has contributed towards the expansion of the settlements in violation of international law.[10]

Difficult for Palestinians to obtain planning permission – not for settlers

The Israeli NGO Peace Now has identified the building and demolition decisions in Area C. Between 2000 and 2007 the Israeli Civil Administration approved only 91 of 1,624 Palestinian applications.[11] That means that over 94% were rejected. During the same period Israeli settlers built over 18,000 homes in the same area. Palestinians are denied building permits for even the most basic purposes such as building a house on their own private land.[12]

The Israeli policy does not only affect individuals. Many Palestinian villages and communities are constrained by not getting permission to carry out investments in infrastructure, like repairing roads and the electrical grid or laying pipes to connect to water supplies.[13] Peace Now says that Palestinians living in Area C in principal face two choices: to build illegally and risk demolition or leave their homes to move to Area A or B, where Palestinian agencies administer building permits.[14] The high proportion of refusals of applications from Palestinians indicates, according to Peace Now, that there is a policy among the Israeli authorities of implementing a “silent transfer” of Palestinians from Area C.[15]

Palestinians forced to build illegally – many buildings demolished

The Israeli authorities restrictions have resulted in that tens of thousands of Palestinians who want to build in Area C have no choice but to build illegally on their land to meet their needs.[16] Illegal construction is threatened with demolition and people that live in these homes risk homelessness. Between 2000 and 2007, the Civil Administration issued almost 5,000 demolition orders against illegal Palestinian constructions. A third of these, over 1,600, had been executed when the study ended.[17] The numbers demonstrate that for every building permit issued to Palestinians in Area C, 18 other Palestinian buildings are demolished and a further 37 demolition orders against Palestinian buildings are issued.[18] The situation is different in the settlements. Only 7% of the 2,900 demolition orders that were issued against illegal constructions in the Israeli settlements between 2000 and 2007were carried out. [19]

During 2009 the Israeli authorities tore down 180 Palestinian-owned buildings in Area C, resulting in over 300 Palestinians, including 167 children, becoming homeless. Many of the demolished buildings were, according to OCHA, in some of the West Bank’s most vulnerable communities.[20] Thousands of buildings in the West Bank risk being demolished. According to information from the Israeli state, 2,450 Palestinian buildings have been demolished over the past twelve years.[21]

Demolition orders and demolitions between 2000-2007[22]

Number of demolition orders issued for Palestinian buildings: 4,993

Percentage of demolitions carried out: 33% (1,663)

Number of demolition orders issued against buildings in the settlements: 2,900

Percentage of demolitions carried out: 7% (199)

The entire West Bank is influenced

The Israeli control of Area C does not only influence the Palestinians who live there. Because of the fact that Area C is the only contiguous territory in the West Bank, it is of vital importance to the entire Palestinian population.[23] It contains valuable water sources, land for grazing and agriculture, and it contains land that is necessary for the development of infrastructure and for the expansion of the Palestinian communities that are in Area A and B. The problem becomes more serious as the Palestinian population grows and today there is a great need for more land.[24] The World Bank claims that Israel’s continued control of planning and zoning within Area C constitutes a serious constraint on the Palestinian economy.[25]

Israel’s building policy in Area C has directly contributed to the poor living conditions for many Palestinians in the West Bank. In addition to those made homeless as a result of housing demolitions, difficulties in obtaining building permission leads to economic problems and it limits access to healthcare and education, among other things. For example, it is hard for the Palestinian authorities to provide schooling and healthcare when it is so difficult to obtain permission to construct buildings for these purposes.[26] Herders and farmers have only limited access to grazing land and can rarely erect buildings for their animals. OCHA claims that even the international community has trouble obtaining building permits for infrastructure projects that in various ways are intended to provide humanitarian aid to some of the West Bank’s most vulnerable areas.[27]

 


 

[1] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[2] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[3] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlments and Other Infrastructure in The West Bank, 2007 p. 122

[4] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[5] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[6] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[7] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[8] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[9] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[10] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[11] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[12] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[13] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[14] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[15] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[16] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[17] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[18] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[19] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Construction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[20] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 2

[21] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[22] Peace Now, 2008, Area C: Palestinian Contruction and Demolition Stats, http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=61&fld=495&docid=3159

[23] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[24] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[25] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[26] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

[27] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, 2009, Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, p. 3

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