The PA Announced its decision to end compliance with the Oslo Accords and will begin to express this by issuing building permits allowing Arabs to build illegally in Israel-controlled areas. The European Union has already taken sides, supporting illegal Arab construction even when it is used as infrastructure for terrorism.
The timeline of recent developments in construction, Jewish and Palestinian, in Judea and Samaria, reveals a perplexing political battleground.
Two weeks ago, Israel was criticized for demolishing illegally built Arab structure, mostly uninhabited, in an Arab neighborhood in the eastern section of Jerusalem. The demolition came after a long court battle in which Israel claimed the buildings were constructed adjacent to the security barrier and could be used as bases to launch terrorist attacks. A 2011 military order bans any construction adjacent to the barrier. The Palestinian Authority issued permits for the construction of the buildings and protested the demolition. Israel’s supreme court rejected the Palestinians’ final appeal, clearing the way for the demolitions.
Just days later, Israel’s cabinet approved 715 building permits to Palestinians in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, alongside 6,000 such licenses for homes in neighboring settlements.
Area C is a designation outlined in the Oslo Accords II which divided Judea and Samaria into Area A (exclusively administered by the Palestinian Authority containing only Arab residents and excluding all Jewish residents), Area B (administered by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel), and Area C (in which both Jews and Arabs reside and is administered by Israel).
Until this cabinet decision, permits for Palestinians to build in Area C were granted on a limited basis.
Betsalel Smotrich, a right-wing pro-settler minister, voted in favor of the decision.
With Israeli elections looming imminent, the question arises as to whether this cabinet decision runs counter to Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex Judea and Samaria or whether it is, perhaps, a surreptitious backfield maneuver to initiate the annexation. Smotrich explained his support for the bill as a move to strengthen the Jewish presence by advancing the construction of thousands of Jewish homes. It wasn’t clear whether the permits for new Palestinian construction or for Arab homes in Area C built before the 1994 Oslo Accords that are currently slated for demolition.
The PA responded to the cabinet decision by denying there were any limitations on their right to build in Judea and Samaria.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’ spokesman, told the media that the Palestinians have the right to build on all territory occupied in 1967, “without needing a permit from anyone.”
“We will not give any legitimacy to the construction of any [Jewish] settlement,” he also said, implying that the PA had authority over Area C in contravention of the Oslo Accords.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Saleh Raafat said that a committee chaired by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decided last week to halt all agreements with Israel in the near future. Palestinian Minister of Local Government Majdi Al-Saleh announced that as per the decision, his ministry will begin issuing permits for Palestinians to build in Area C. He cited the European Union’s approval of Palestinian contsrustuction in these areas as a support for the PA decision.
Debka Files, an English language Israeli military intelligence website, wrote that the PA will begin issuing 30,000 such permits for Arab construction in Area C.
“As an added incentive for builders, the PA is laying out generous financing from funds donated by European sources,” Debka reported on Monday. “Abu Mazen’s step shreds up a fundamental ingredient of the Oslo peace accords.”
Debka noted that the PA decision comes just before the second round of Israeli national elections. Noting Netanyahu’s inability to form a coalition after the first round of elections, Debka noted that Palestinian defiance would fuel a left-wing challenge to Netanyahu.