Netanyahu speaks at Likud faction meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel is not planning to unilaterally hand over portions of Area C in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud ministers on Sunday.
“There won’t be any transfer of territory to the Palestinians, not 40,000 [dunams or 10,000 acres], not 10,000 and not even one meter,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
He spoke after Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan publicly charged that the Office of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories and the Civil Administration is continuing work on a plan to transfer 10,000 dunams of territory in Area C to the Palestinian Authority.
But Netanyahu told the Likud ministers that he would not execute any such plan.
Likud ministers Ophir Akunis, Ze’ev Elkin, Haim Katz, Israel Katz and Miri Regev raised the issue with Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting.
“It’s a delusional idea,” said Akunis.
“Together with the international community, we have to demand that the Palestinians fight terrorism and stop the incitement against our forces and our citizens. That is what is required and not the transfer of territory,” Akunis said after the meeting.
The West Bank is divided into three areas: Areas A and B are under the PA’s civil control, and Area C, which makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, not including east Jerusalem, is under Israeli military and civil control.
It is presumed that any final-status agreement for a two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict would involve the transfer of portions of Area C to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said he will not uproot settlements, all of which are located in Area C.
Comments Netanyahu has made in the past few weeks have resulted in a number of media reports of a possible arrangement – in the absence of any tangible peace process – by which Israel would hand the PA portions of Area C that are not in use by the settlements, in exchange for certain guarantees.
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly turned down a plan by Netanyahu to allow the Palestinians to build in Area C in exchange for stopping terrorist attacks in Israel and US acceptance of Israel’s right to build in the settlement blocs, which Israel believes will be part of its final borders in any final status agreement.
After hearing Netanyahu’s statement, Dagan called on the prime minister to publicly reject the idea of transferring territory to the Palestinians.
To execute such a plan in the midst of a wave of terrorism would be akin to rewarding Palestinian terrorism, Dagan said.
Netanyahu must order COGAT and the Civil Administration to stop working on such plans, Dagan said.
Security sources said that such an idea had been kicked around in the past, but that no one was seriously pursuing it at the moment.
Martin Indyk, the former US special envoy to the nine months of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which ended in failure in April 2014, mentioned a similar plan when he spoke in Tel Aviv earlier this month at the Israel Conference on Peace, sponsored by Haaretz.
“In the last night of the negotiations that I was involved in, the Israeli negotiators came with an offer of tens of thousand of dunams of C Area, that they were prepared to give over to the Palestinian Authority’s control to build what they would want to on them without the permit regime and so on,” Indyk said.
“And that came in the context of a settlement freeze,” Indyk said. “Why can’t that be done now?”