The Palestinian community of Um al Heir, South Hebron Hills, West Bank.
The Palestinian community of Um al Heir, South Hebron Hills, West Bank. Photo by Mairav Zonszein
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The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s subcommittee on Judea and Samaria has spent several months debating illegal Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control. The minutes of a closed meeting of this panel on April 27 (disclosed by Amira Hass in yesterday’s Haaretz) reveal the blunt language used by some attendees. This includes mention of “throw[ing] out” and “kick[ing] back” the Palestinians, references to Palestinian communities as “weeds” and to foreign states and international organizations that “incit[e] the Arabs,” and “I don’t understand how you got to such astronomical figures for the Bedouin.”

The language matched the substance of the meeting: MKs Moyi Yogev and Orit Strock of Habayit Hayehudi, the only two committee members who showed up, along with representatives of the settlers, complained about what they saw as the helplessness and neglect of the authorities which enabled Palestinians to remain in areas where they had lived before 1967.

Responding to the complaints and demands were the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police and the ministries of justice, the interior and foreign affairs. Mordechai argued with some of the participants’ assumptions, stressing that the law must also be enforced against settlers in the West Bank, but there’s no way of knowing, at least from the minutes, whether Mordechai or the other government representatives protested the crude and racist remarks.

By contrast, the minutes do show that those attending agree on a common goal: to clear the Palestinians out of most of Area C and force them into the enclaves of areas A and B. Several past and current methods of achieving this were discussed. These included designating areas as live-fire zones and conducting military exercises in them; declaring public Palestinian land as Israeli state land and allocating it solely to Jews; designating land as in the process of being surveyed and therefore of uncertain status, and then permitting settlers to use it; restricting or rejecting Palestinian master plans; refusing to connect communities to water or electricity; destroying wells and the forced evacuation of Bedouin, who are resettled in crowded towns.

Removing the Palestinian population from Area C is forbidden by international law, as the European Union has repeatedly declared. It’s no surprise that the two committee members in attendance demanded that Israel get tough with international organizations that help Palestinians remain on their lands. What is surprising is that opposition MKs on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are ignoring this subcommittee. Their presence will not change the position of Habayit Hayehudi, but they can at least make it clear to government officials that there are other parts of the Israeli public that understand that expulsions from and annexations of Area C will scuttle any prospects for peace.