As part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to unilaterally establish a de facto Palestinian state, the Palestinian Austhority (PA) is operating towards the establishment of various national infrastructures – civilian and security control structures, establishment of physical and economic infrastructures, and reforms in the central and local governments.
The PA’s blatant efforts to establish the physical infrastructures specifically in ‘C’ Territories, which are under full (both civil and defence) Israeli control, are clearly an attempt to actively annex more land and place it under PA control.
This dual modus operandi incorporates both coordinated actions as well as illegal actions that are not coordinated with Israeli authorities.
This Position Paper will show the PA’s methods of operations in a nutshell, using a small number of recent examples, while presenting the implications of these moves.
Background – The Fayyad Plan
In July 2009, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced his plan to unilaterally establish a de facto Palestinian state.
This is not a theoretical plan ‘on paper’, but rather an assemblage of physical infrastructure projects, with clear rationale and organizing logic, that will form the physical basis for the Palestinian state. The plan includes 3 major pillars – a structural reform of the central and local governments, restoring and re-establishing the security system (Palestinian Police, courts, prisons, etc.), and building the economic and physical infrastructures (banks, public and education facilities, electricity, water, sewage and roads infrastructures, etc.). The title of the Fayyad Plan is, therefore, to establish facts on the ground unilaterally, without the involvement or even the consent of Israel. The various projects are being funded by generous donations from the Gulf states, Europe and the USA.
The Fayyad Plan integrated nicely into the Israeli-led ‘Economic Peace’ policy in Judea and Samaria, which was striving to strengthen the PA and deepen the separation between the government systems in Gaza and those in Judea and Samaria. This Israeli policy was also built on large international financing involvement, and it was promoted with no mechanisms alongside it to ensure Israeli control throughout the entire process.
With time, the international involvement became a ‘bypass route’ of Israel, which the Palestinians use to advance towards the unilateral establishment of a de facto Palestinian state, while taking a two-faced policy against Israel. Abu Mazen presents a false image of striving to hold negotiations with Israel and Salam Fayyad advances parallely on an actual unilateral track. Abu Mazen’s appeal to the UN last summer would not have been possible if the emotional groundwork for unilateral steps, as part of the international involvement in the realization of the Fayyad Plan, had not been put in place in the international community.
As part of the Fayyad Plan, deliberate emphasis was placed on establishing large parts of the national infrastructures system in the ‘C’ Territories, which are defined by the Oslo Accords as areas under full Israeli civil and defence control. The intention of the PA is to ‘annex’ these areas under it’s control, create corridors and contiguous territories in them, create the opposite effect for the Israeli communities, and establish irreversible facts on the ground. The Gradual Annexation method is being pursued simultaneously on two tracks. One track is pursued by the PA coordinating with Israeli authorities by turning to them and requesting the approval to construct projects of special significance (usually, these will be projects where the international budgeting is dependant on a ‘stamp of approval’ – Israeli consent). The other track is pursued by establishing facts on the ground – with widespread illegal construction and development activities, without coordination or approval from the Israeli authorities. In the second track, one can absolutely detect a systematic and deliberate hand, an organizing logic which includes attempts to create contiguous territories, isolating and cutting off Israeli contigua, etc.
Absurdly, the State of Israel, which fights on the international level against the unilateral establishment of a Palestinian state, does not utilize its control of the area to stop the practical steps the PA takes in order to establish a Palestinian state and, in regards to the first track, even actively helps them. An operative and effective promotion of the plan aspires to reach the point of no return, where Israel and the international community will be faced with fait accompli.
First Track – Israeli Stamp of Approval
As stated, the first track being used by the Palestinians to deepen their control of ‘C’ Territories goes through coordination with and even aid from Israel. We will demonstrate the absurdity by using 3 examples on the agenda:
1. The establishment of the town of Nu’eima in the Jericho region
Currently, the Civil Administration is promoting the establishment of a new Palestinian town in the Jordan Valley, near the village of Nu’eima. For this purpose, the ICA intends to allocate more than 9,000 acres of state lands, located north of Jericho. These lands are located in the municipal area of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and the plan being promoted by the ICA includes the settling of thousands of Palestinians, who have illegally taken over many sites in the Jordan Valley over the last few years, in the planned town, some of them ‘housing enhancers’ from the Jenin region who fled PA territories, while others are Bedouins from the Hebron Hills and the Southern Judean Hills areas. Recently, the ICA confirmed the existence of the plan in a response to Re’ga’vim (a letter from 19 Sivan, May 28th 2013), stating that: “The plan has been approved for the political level to promote the proceedings, and is currently being worked on administratively. When the administrative work is complete, the plan will be posted. In accordance with the law, the plan will be published as required, so that any person who views themselves as being harmed by the plan will be able to submit their objections”.
In this context, a senior official in the ICA confirmed, during a phone call with Ma’ariv newspaper, that “recently, decisions have been made to promote several development plans that will turn the Palestinians’ illegal hold of the land to legal”.
It is hard to find a greater stupidity than this, in almost every way possible. Establishing an urban space does not consist of only residential spaces, but rather naturally drags along with it transport, economic, occupational, sanitation, and many other implications. The plan will naturally lead to the immigration of thousands of additional Palestinians to the Jordan Valley. Demographically, establishing the town could prove to be the death blow to the already flimsy Israeli hold on the Valley region. No less than that, the new town could have devastating effects on the fabric of life of the Israeli residents living in the region, further complicating the already difficult life in the Valley.
In the strategic context – it is unclear how the plan, and the alleged political approval that was given to it, coincides with the defensive and strategic importance of the Jordan Valley and with the righteous insistence of the political leadership that the Valley be kept in Israeli hands as part of the framework of any permanent agreement. Over the years, the Jordan Valley has been defined by generations of Israeli governments as Israel’s ‘Eastern Security Strip’. Establishing another Arab town north of Jericho contributes to the thickening of the territorial contiguity north and west from Jericho. This is in direct violation and contradiction with Israel’s defence concept, and contrasts sharply with the Israeli position presented in the international arena. What point is there in filling the area with Palestinian settlements?! Common sense and past experience say that areas which are settled by Palestinians become Palestinian responsibility, because Israel has no interest in running the lives of the Palestinians. How, then, do the Israeli Prime Minister’s repeated declarations, that the Jordan Valley will remain in Israeli hands as part of any future arrangement, fit with the active promotion of the plan to establish this urban space in this region?!
We must listen to David Elhyani, Head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, who states that this plan will suffocate the communities under the Council – “The lawbreaking, Palestinian criminals, who settled on state lands surreptitiously, are being rewarded, as they are now receiving thousands of acres as a gift. This is a delusional and adventurous plan that will choke the Council’s communities”.
2. A Preventive Security Service facility near Route 443
During May the media published that the Civil Administration accepted a request to establish a ‘security facility’ for the PA’s Preventive Security Service, the Palestinian equivalent of the Israeli Shin Bet, in ‘C’ Territories. ICA officials are currently examining the request, which involves transferring large portions of land from Israeli control to the PA.
According to reports and the investigation conducted by the Re’ga’vim movement, this is for the establishment of a facility for the PA’s Preventive Security Service, apparently in the area marked in the attached aerial photo, which is an area designated as a ‘firing zone’ (934).
This area dominates Route 443 which connects the city of Modi’in to Jerusalem. Establishing such a facility in such a sensitive area in terms of security and in a location which dominates one of the main roads leading to Jerusalem, is obviously a folly and a real danger to the security of the Jewish residents of the area.
The fact that Israeli officials are even considering such a request and have not rejected it outright, indicates the loss of something fundamental in the moral compass and common sense.
3. The ‘Ramon’ waste-collection site
Near the Rimonim intersection in Binyamin, the Civil Administration has been promoting a regional waste disposal site which will serve Ramallah, Al-Bireh and the surrounding villages, at the request of the PA. Despite the fact that most of the waste will be coming from ‘A’ and ‘B’ Territories, the PA decided to establish this site in ‘C’ Territories, which are under full Israeli control. Moreover, the site is being promoted despite the PA’s declaration that it will only serve the Arab population of the area and despite its stubborn refusal to allow use for the waste coming from Israeli communities in the area.
This plan also constitutes a folly in almost every aspect. First of all, why should waste from ‘A’ and ‘B’ Territories be allowed to be disposed of in ‘C’ Territories? Why won’t the PA take care of its residents’ waste in its own area? Secondly, establishing the facility at the discussed location would severely damage the transportation fabric of the Israeli communities along the Rimonim axis, the quality of life of the residents of nearby Rimonim, and no less worse, the environment. The method of waste disposal by landfill is considered the worse method of disposal, due to the severe pollution of the soil and irreversible damages it creates. Absurdly, the Deutsche Bank is funding the establishment of the site, while the landfill method has been completely banned throughout Germany. Furthermore, the southern border of the site is adjacent to the Makhokh River nature reserve, which is characterized by permeable karstic rock, which presents a severe threat to the Eastern Aquifer from which drinking water is pumped.
So far, over 100 (!) objections were filed against the establishment of the facility, among them the objections of the Nature Protection Society, the Binyamin Regional Council, the Municipal Environmental Association of Samaria and Binyamin, and many more organizations, yet the Civil Administration continues promoting the plan and striving to execute it.
All this is happening, while years ago the establishment of a supervised and approved site near Dir Dibwan had been approved, in a location that was supposed to minimize the aforementioned environmental damages; but due to Arab violence against the founders of the Dir Dibwan facility, and due to the incompetence and lack of governance of the ICA, this plan was removed from the agenda, and instead emerged the far worse and more dangerous plan.
It follows that the Israeli authorities succumb to Palestinian violence and impositions, and are promoting a plan which is harmful in every way, which will deepen the PA’s affinity and hold on ‘C’ Territories while weakening Israel’s.
Second Track – Establishing Facts on the Ground
As previously mentioned, parallel to the coordinated policy, the PA continues its vast construction and development activities, without coordination or approval, with the intention of establishing fait accompli on the ground.
An example of this behavior can be found in the PA’s activities in the Al-Bireh – Psagot region. In the last few months, methodical and deliberate activities have been identified in the region, with the clear intention of tightening the noose around the Israeli community of Psagot and strengthening the Palestinian hold of the region. This goal is being implemented through several illegal projects, conducted without ISraeli coordination and with vast international assistance. In reality, due to the vigorous activity of the PA, a dangerous chokehold tightens around the Psagot community, which is considered to be the ‘center of the local government’ of the Binyamin Regional Council, accommodating its offices as well as about 300 families that live there.
Over the years, the Arab city of Al-Bireh expanded, until it reached a distance of only 100 meters from the community’s fence. The establishment of this noose is carried out through the illegal development of infrastructures and construction of roads, as well as constructing buildings on dominating points with the intention of creating a buffer in the hills between Psagot and Beit El. All these projects are being executed illegally in the area that separates Al-Bireh and Psagot, as well as in the other areas around the community, which are all defined as ‘C’ Territories, under full Israeli control.
In the following aerial photo, projects that are being carried out right now, sponsored by the complete disregard by the Israeli law enforcement authorities, have been highlighted.
1. In 2009, the construction of a soccer stadium began in an agricultural area on the outskirts of Al-Bireh, near and visible to the Psagot community (Marking No. 1 in the aerial photo). Following Re’ga’vim’s actions, the Civil Administration issued a stop-work order on the construction, but it continued undeterred. In an appeal to the Supreme Court, the Re’ga’vim movement demanded that the law be enforced and the structure demolished, yet in 2011 a building permit for the stadium was issued retroactively, allowing its construction and operation. No imagination is required to evaluate the results of 15,000 fervent fans marching at the end of a game, with a 5 minutes walking distance from the stadium to the community. Against the background of popular uprising scenarios the IDF is preparing for, this is a more than likely scenario.
2. In 2012, as part of the construction of a new road within the boundaries of Al-Bireh, a breakthrough began that invaded into the boundaries of the area which separates Psagot and Al-Bireh, with the intention of performing a ‘silent annexation’ of this area into the boundries of Al-Bireh (Marking No. 2 in the aerial photo).
3. On the access road south of the PSagot community, a WWTP (Waste Water Treatment Plant) operates, serving the residents of Al-Bireh, Psagot and Tel Zion. Late in 2012, extensive development work was started in the area, and the road was widened and repaved, without receiving the necessary permits from the Civil Administration (Marking No. 3 in the aerial photo). Needless to say, there is no need for such a road to reach a WWTP, and it appears that its purpose is to bypass IDF checkpoints and connect to Route 60 undisturbed. In the petition filed in the Supreme Court by Re’ga’vim, the Civil Administration admitted that it had no idea who was behind the project. Just so, a highway is paved in the middle of the Binyamin area, and the Civil Administration does not know who the perpetrators are. Could there be a greater failure?!
(In the right photo – the road when construction started. In the left photo – the new road)
4. The communities of Psagot and Beit El are connected by a local road nicknamed ‘the Garbage axis’, due to the fact that it serves as the access road to Al-Bireh’s municipal landfill. Over the last few months, work has begun to construct a road from Al-Bireh to a Sheikh’s tomb, which is located on a strategic point that dominates the road. During May, construction of a large structure began at an accelerated, and several tents were pitched around it, with the intention of solidifying a civilian presence in the area (Marking No. 4 in the aerial photo).
Here too, it is clear that this is an illegal activity, yet the Civil administration takes no effective action to prevent it. Stopping the work in this place involves the most simple action. There are no houses being demolished, with the sensitivity involved, only stopping infrastructure work by confiscating work tools and other simple actions that do not even require the allocation of large forces.
The Civil Administration’s disregard can not be explained in any other way besides there existing a deliberate policy from above, to avoid confrontations with the Palestinians and the international organizations that are involved in these projects, and to allow their implementation.
Operations such as those conducted by the PA in the Psagot region are being conducted these very days as well, in several dozens of locations, and no one speaks up, while there are those who could not care less about the law!!!
? The PA is promoting the Fayyad Plan with determination, using a hypocritical, two-faced policy regarding Israel’s sovereignty over ‘C’ Territories, with the intention of establishing fait accompli.
? It is possible to identify the PA’s policy, as it establishes its ever increasing control of ‘C’ Territories, and with negative symmetry, Israel is being displaced from these locations.
? In the face of the PA’s systematic and tendentious operations, the Israeli policy ranges from tacit consent to direct assistance, conduct that makes absolutely no sense politically, defensively or civily.
? The Palestinian operations on the ground are being conducted at an accelerated rate, and if we do not wake up and stop it, it may cross the line of no return in the very near future.