Sound Bites: Area C: Squeezed from all sides

Some Jewish delinquent uproots a single Palestinian olive tree and it is front-page news throughout Israel, and thanks to certain organizations, throughout the world as well.

August 1, 2019 22:09
3 minute read.
Palestinian flags hung by the roads across the West Bank

Palestinian flags hung by the roads across the West Bank. (photo credit: TPS)

There has never been a government that is farther to the Right than the one that has been on its last legs for the past seven months, and there probably never will be. But how does that right-wing ideology express itself?

Back in the days when it was in power, the now-defunct Mapai Party understood the meaning of work; this government understands the meaning of sound bites. Farmers in Judea and Samaria are being squeezed dry by all sides, and they don’t even complain any more. Some Jewish delinquent uproots a single Palestinian olive tree and it is front-page news throughout Israel, and thanks to certain organizations, throughout the world as well.

But no one ever hears about the countless olive trees, cherry trees, and grapevines planted by Israelis that are uprooted on a regular basis. In Mateh Binyamin and throughout Judea and Samaria, farmers pay several hundred percent more for the water for their vineyards than anywhere else in the country. They’re even willing to pay, but they don’t actually get water. All around them sewage flows freely. Not only is it polluting the environment, but it’s also a waste of water that could be purified and used for irrigation: two absurdities for the price of one act of neglect.

“This land is ours by right,” “We will build wherever we choose,” “We will annex Area C.” All are empty slogans, meaningless sound bites. Meanwhile in Area C (the region under Israeli military and civil rule as stipulated in the Oslo Accords), the Palestinians are taking over large tracts of state-owned land, building and planting without any interference from the authorities.

Here are a few statistics: the whole of Area C consists of 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres); half a million Israelis make their home there; Israeli dwellings account for 2.5% of the region; the total area of Israeli activity – including projects in the planning stage, industrial complexes, and military installations – constitutes only 8.5% of the land.

Some 200,000 Palestinians live in Area C, only 15,000 of them legally. By law, anyone who occupies land in Judea and Samaria for 10 years becomes its legal owner. In actual practice, however, that law applies only to Palestinians. According to a Supreme Court ruling, Israelis have to provide proof of ownership. The Palestinians are making a mockery of us. They already occupy some 30% of the land, most of it by illegal squatting, an activity that is constantly increasing.

We are gradually losing the Judean Desert, gradually ceding Area C. The land grab is encouraged and financed by the Palestinian Authority. It’s the same in the Negev. When anarchy reigns, it doesn’t stop at the border that used to be called the Green Line. Hundreds of thousands of hectares in the Negev are being illegally occupied, and we’re losing that too.

The problem can be summed up in one word: governance, or more precisely, non-governance. Israel is ignoring its interests and forfeiting the last of the available land in this crowded region for the sake of a bogus, temporary, peace and quiet. What happened to the right-wing parties? What happened to the Eretz Yisrael lobby? Why don’t we hear anything from them? The government has to wake up and start enforcing the law. We don’t need to change the laws, just enforce the ones that already exist.

If it doesn’t happen soon, those who advocate annexation of Area C will within the next few years be talking about a heavily populated region rather than bare land. Nobody in their right mind would agree to absorb a million, or even half a million Palestinians consumed by hatred of Israel. And anyone hoping to be holding an ace in future negotiations, should they ever take place, will discover that the card in their hand is worthless because the area has become Palestinian de facto. In short, governance – enforcing the law – benefits everyone, Right and Left alike. Turning a blind eye undermines us all.

Translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai.

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