The European Union has decided to pursue a series of steps which may undermine Israel's control of Area C in the West Bank, an official EU document obtained by Ynet on Thursday suggests.
The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three areas of control: Area A which is under the Palestinian Authority's full control; Area B, which is under Palestinian civil controls and shared Israeli-Palestinian security control; and Area C, which is controlled by Israel.
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Area C makes up 62% of the West Bank, but the Palestinians make up only 5.8% of its population.
The document, titled "Area C and Palestinian state building," harshly criticizes Israel's policies in the West Bank, claiming they have caused the Palestinian population in Area C to shrink significantly and recede into enclaves.
Investing in infrastructure (Illustration: AFP)
The document states that Europe will support road, water, infrastructure, municipal, educational and medical projects in the area, in order to "support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence (in the area)."
The EU, the brief said, aims to:
- Encourage Israel to change its policy and planning system for Area C and engage the Palestinian communities in access and developments
- Reduce land and population vulnerability and facilitate better coordination of basic needs deliveries in Area C
- Promote economic development in Area C
- Increase visibility and accountability for the delivery of aid in Area C
The diplomats state that "The window for the two-state solution is rapidly closing… and Area C is the only contiguous area in the western Negev surrounding Area A and B. Area C compromises crucial natural resources and land for the future demographic and economic growth of a viable Palestinian state. State building efforts in Area C of the PA are therefore of utmost important in order to support the creation of a Palestinian state."
The EU, a western diplomat told Ynet, is primarily concerned about three aspects overshadowing the viability of the two-state solution: Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Area C. The EU, he added, is worried that Israel's policies in Area C will prevent the PA from maintaining territorial continuity, perpetuating the current situation of a "patch-state."
The documents expresses the EU's concern that the dwindling Palestinian presence in Area C is "pushing the conception of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines further away" and urges the immediate cessation of what it calls Israel's "demolition policy" in Palestinian villages.
The document also urges Israel to support Palestinian development plans across the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The diplomats underscore throughout the brief the need for EU support of private and public sector projects and infrastructure, but make no mention of involving Israel, or obtaining its cooperation in such projects.
A Western diplomat familiar with the document told Ynet that the Europeans have decided to simply skip Israeli regulations: "What Europe is essentially saying here is that because Area C is vital for sustaining a viable Palestinian state, we will support whatever needs to be done for the sale of Palestinian development in the area regardless of Israel's planning policy."
He confirmed that the step was meant to reduce the amount of necessary building permits, saying that "European funding of vital projects like water infrastructure will be independent of Israeli authorities' approval."
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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