Area C [marked out under the administrative divisions of the Oslo Accords] holds potential for minerals development, as well as agriculture development. It is there that vast expanses of vacant land are available for the establishment of industrial zones and new residential neighborhoods and for overall urban development. The Palestinians are well aware that without this area, they can have no sustainable economic future.
The prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad, led last week [Wednesday, Aug. 8] a large delegation of visitors on a tour of a series of tiny villages located on the southeastern side of Mount Hebron, on the border of the Green Line. It is a desert area inhabited by a small Palestinian population of some 1,500 villagers who live in caves and in temporary sheds and subsist on meager shepherding and agriculture. The visit was held in view of the decision by Israel, made about two weeks ago [Sunday, July 22], to evacuate and demolish eight of these villages, including the villages of al-Majaz, a-Tabban, Jinba and al-Kharuba,in order to make way for essentially needed [so it was said] training zones for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Fayyad was accompanied on the tour by a large group of representatives of the European Union [the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah] and the UN, foreign consuls stationed in Ramallah and in East Jerusalem, delegates of international welfare organizations and the media. It is not by mere chance that the goings-on in the area have stirred up intensive Palestinian activity and raised so much interest in the media and in the international community, as it is but one example of the relentless and wide-ranging Israeli-Palestinian struggle currently raging in full swing. The struggle is, in many of its aspects, an economic struggle.
Area C accounts for some 60% of the West Bank territory
The areas where the villages under discussion are located, as well as vast areas in the Jordan Valley, the Judean Desert and elsewhere across the West Bank, are defined under the Oslo Accords as Area C. In other words, it is the area under Israeli civilian and military control. All the West Bank settlements, as well as the majority of roads [including those used to access the settlements] and a large part of the vacant land [in the West Bank] are contained in Area C, which accounts for some 60% of the West Bank territory.
Besides the demonstrations and media activity held by the Palestinians [in protest of the evacuation and demolition orders], they have recently been flooding the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice with appeals against each demolition order. According to UN assessments, more than 150,000 Palestinians are living at present in Area C, many of them, in tiny shepherd communities, whose residents are among the weakest and most vulnerable populations in the West Bank. In the past, orders issued by Israel for the demolition of small structures went for the most part without [Palestinian] reaction. However, in recent months, the Palestinian Authority decided to change strategy and to go into battle against the demolition of structures and the destruction of [whole] villages and to that end, to resort to legal means as well. And it enjoys the cooperation of the European Union and various international organizations in its struggle.
The settlements are safeguarding the potential [for development] on the Israeli side
The Palestinians are well aware that in the absence of control over this area, they stand no chance of establishing a state. It is this area that holds the potential for agricultural development, as well as for urban growth, as the expanses of vacant land available there may be used for residential building and for the construction of new towns and neighborhoods. This is also the area earmarked for setting up industrial zones and airports. It is the area where there are prospects for minerals development and where water sources are located. In other words, to put it simply, without Area C, the Palestinians can have no sustainable economic future.
The same, or virtually the same, holds true for the settlement project in the West Bank. In the absence of full control over Area C, the settlements are bound to remain as isolated islands surrounded by hostile Palestinian population. For years now, the settlers' organizations have been setting up both authorized and unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, all of them in Area C and all of them, designed to safeguard the development, expansion and economic consolidation of the Israeli settlements.