Yamina MK: Is Netanyahu helping Trump make a Palestinian state in Area C?
Kahane speculated that Netanyahu had allowed for the illegal Palestinian construction to continue by way of helping bring the Trump plan to fruition with regard to Palestinian statehood.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to help US President Donald Trump create a Palestinian state in Area C by ignoring illegal Palestinian building in that area of the West Bank, asked Yamina MK Matan Kahane.“We are losing territory [in Area C] daily,” he told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (FADC) on Wednesday.He spoke at the start of a heated FADC debate on the phenomenon of illegal Palestinian building in Area C and the lack of an adequate Civil Administration response.It’s an issue that has received renewed interest in light of Trump’s peace plan and its blueprint for the creation of a Palestinian state. Underlying the debate was the question of whether Area C in its entirety would become part of sovereign Israel or whether portions of it would be part of a Palestinian state.The plan allows for Israel to apply sovereignty over half of Area C, where all the settlements are located. But it also designates the remainder of Area C – along with Areas A and B of the West Bank – for a future Palestinian state. At present, Area C is under Israeli military and civil control.Kahane speculated that Netanyahu had allowed for the illegal Palestinian construction to continue by way of helping bring the Trump plan to fruition with regard to Palestinian statehood.“I ask myself, does our government have a directive with regard to Area C?” Kahane said. “Is it possible that what is happening now in Area C, is the result of a prime ministerial directive to enable the creation of a Palestinian state through the Trump plan?”MK Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) argued in favor of Israeli sovereignty over all of Area C.“The major battle for Israel is taking place in Area C,” Sa’ar said. “In the annals of Zionist history, the facts on the ground have been most determinative in setting Israel’s borders.”It’s unlikely that Israel would relinquish territory in Area C because it has understood the depth of that kind of a mistake, he said, referencing the 2005 military and civilian withdrawal from Gaza.“Today the danger is losing territory and that is what is happening today in Area C,” Sa’ar said.“Only if this committee holds a debate on this topic monthly, will we be able to get this issue back on track,” he said.Right-wing politicians, with the help of the NGO Regavim, have long argued that illegal Palestinian building is part of a deliberate Palestinian Authority plan, first initiated by former PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad, to seize de facto control of as much of Area C in advance of a final status resolution regarding a two-state resolution.At the FADC, Sa’ar argued that a national plan was needed to combat this Palestinian strategy.A number of politicians took issue with the European Union’s policy of supporting illegal Palestinian building in Area C.FADC chairman Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) read out a statement from Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, which charged that such EU activity was “an attempt to set a border” for a Palestinian state.MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) noted that the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, to which Israel was a signatory, had divided the West Bank into three regions. That Accord designated Area C as territory that would largely be handed over to the Palestinians for a future state, she said.Politicians in this meeting have spoken against a Palestinian state in Area C as if they have “unveiled” some deep secret plot, when that was the plan all along, Zandberg said.“I have news for you, this territory now is not part of sovereign Israel and there is a reason,” Zandberg said. “They are designated for a Palestinian state because that is where the Palestinian people are and they are not going anywhere.”Meretz Party head MK Nitzan Horowitz said that there were a number of factual inaccuracies that have been put forward.Over the years, Israel has built settlements and outposts in Area C, while such Palestinian development has been stymied, he explained.“As of 2010-2020, there has been a monthly average of one building permit granted to Palestinians, as opposed to 90 demolition orders and three building demolitions on a monthly basis,” Horowitz said.The Palestinians can only build on half a percent of Area C, he said, adding that Area C was 60% of the West Bank.Separately, he said, rather than attacking the EU and Europeans, Israel should thank it for subsidizing Palestinian civilian life, providing monetary grants for hospitals, solar energy, sewer lines and security coordination.“These are costs that we would have needed to pay,” Horowitz said.There are other European countries who could use this assistance, he added.A NUMBER of politicians called for the issue of enforcement against illegal Palestinian building to be transferred to the purview of the local and regional settler councils.MK Shlomo Karhi (Likud) said a government body must be created to ensure that the remainder of Area C, not designated for Israeli sovereignty in Trump’s plan, is preserved for eventual Israeli sovereignty. Illegal Palestinian building in that area should be fully mapped out, Karhi said.That government body would also ensure that US assistance to the Palestinians does not go toward Palestinian development in the portions of Area C not under Israeli sovereignty.Ran Peled, who heads the National Security Council’s Domestic Policy Division, said that a year ago, on July 29, 2019, there was a security cabinet to preserve Area C. It clarified that the Office of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) was in charge of oversight. It called for the appointment of someone to be in charge of the issue. In addition, it asked for a map of the illegal construction and for data to be compiled.Hauser then attempted to find out what happened to that directive, including a call to the Defense Ministry’s settlement adviser, Avi Ro’eh, who said that it was not under his purview.Ro’eh said that five meetings had been held on the matter in the last two years.“Who is in charge?” Hauser kept asking. Through his questions, he discovered that former defense minister Naftali Bennett had appointed someone to that task during his brief tenure, which lasted from November 2019 to May, but the appointment was not executed.Brig.-Gen. Rasan Alian, who heads COGAT’s Civil Administration, said the issue was under IDF Central Command, then executed by COGAT through his office.
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