Five Days to Elections

Bennett's West Bank Plan Ignores Existence of About 100,000 Palestinians

Habayit Hayehudi's 'Stability Initiative' proposes annexing Area C of the West Bank, claiming only some 50,000 Palestinians live there. But do his numbers add up?

One of the pillars of Naftali Bennett's platform is his plan for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a plan the star of this election campaign calls "The Stability Initiative," which simply calls for Israel to annex Area C of the West Bank.

Under the Oslo Accords, Area C was placed under full Israeli civil and security control. To stave off accusations of apartheid, Bennett proposes giving Israeli citizenship to nearly 50,000 Palestinians living in the annexed territories. That would supposedly expand Israel's borders at a negligible demographic cost.

But is Bennett correct in saying that only 50,000 Arabs live in Area C? An appendix to his plan lists the Palestinian villages in Area C and the population of each (where applicable). In the margins, Bennett writes that the figures were accurate as of 2007. A quick check reveals that Bennett's data is taken from a comprehensive report on Israeli planning policy in Area C that was issued in 2008 by the NGO Bimkom – Planners for Human Rights. In fact, a significant portion of Bennett's plan, as outlined in "The Israel Stability Initiative: A Practical Program for Managing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," is based on a table that was copied – in its entirety – from the Bimkom report, titled "The Prohibited Zone."

But the name that Bennett applies to this table does not reflect the data it contains. The table includes only those Palestinian villages whose entire built-up area falls inside Area C. But there are some 200 villages that are partly in Area C and partly in Areas A or B of the West Bank. When the Oslo Accords were signed, the Palestinian cities of the West Bank were within Area B, but since then some of them have expanded into Area C. Including the population in these areas would add around 100,000 people to the 47,360 cited in Bennett's table. (By the way, the full explanation of this appears on page 129 of his plan.)

In the appendix to Bennett's plan, it also says that the list of Arab communities in Area C and their populations was correct as of 2007, and "in our estimation there has been no change to that number." But in fact, the annual estimated natural population growth of 4 percent would add nearly 60,000 to Bennett's figures.

"Putting aside the lack of basic standards of research and the copying and misrepresentation of data, the fact that more than half of Bennett's program is based on completely inaccurate figures points to an astounding ignorance with regard to what is happening in Area C," says architect Alon Cohen-Lifshitz of Bimkom. "In addition to about 150,000 Palestinians who physically reside in Area C, there are dozens more Palestinian communities located in small islands within Areas B and C, so at the end of the day the number of Palestinians and of [Israeli] settlers living in Area C is about the same."

Bennet did not provide Haaretz with its requested response by the time of publication.
 

Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Haaretz