The European Union will direct its activities towards supporting the West Bank’s Palestinian population, a report by the European Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah said on Thursday, over what the survey said was Israeli efforts to muscle out Palestinians from Area C.
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Area C noted in the report is part of a division of the West Bank stipulated by the Oslo Accords: Area A, where the Palestinian Authority has full civilian and security control; Area B, which is those parts of the West Bank that come under Israeli security control and Palestinian civilian control; and Area C, which is territories under full Israeli civilian and security control.
A newly approved internal report of European Heads of Mission, titled “Area C and Palestinian State Building,” cautioned that the chances for a two-state solution on 1967 borders will be lost if Israel does not change its policies in Area C.
"What’s special about this report is that we are all partners in it and agree on the wording of it," a European diplomat told Haaretz.
“The European governments hold a variety of stances regarding the situation – with Holland representing one very pro-Israel side, and Ireland on the other side. But everyone agreed on this documents,” the diplomat said, adding: “Israel always says it has both enemies and friends in Europe and we say: the friends think this way too about the situation in Area C.”
While copies of the original report were obtained by several journalists in the last few days, the final wording adopted in Brussels introduced changes which were not yet published.
In the factual section of the original, the report stated that Israeli policy in Area C “result in forced transfer of the native population.”
According to the report, 5.8% of the West Bank’s Palestinian population – about 150,000 people – lives on Area C, which constitutes 62 % of the West Bank.
In the Jordan Valley, 90% of which is Area C, is home to 56,000 Palestinians, 70% of which reside in Jericho, a city designated as Area A. The report also stated that anywhere between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians resided in the Jordan Valley before 1967.
It was in 2011 that the European Heads of Mission made a collective decision to follow the situation in Area C as opposed to an exclusive focus on East Jerusalem, which has been their custom in recent years. Consequently, the newly released report is the group’s first collective report concerning the Area C, one which the European diplomat said was borne out of a “sense of urgency and meant to represent that urgency.”
According to the diplomat, this is an urgency understood at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
Along with a discussion of the role of Israeli policymakers in shaping Area C realities, the report also urges European involvement through aid programs that would bolster Palestinian staying power in face of Israeli policies.
The manner and speed of the report’s recommendations is now up to Brussels, but another European diplomat estimated that these actions will be gradual and measures as opposed to drastic and immediate.
However, the document doesn’t direct criticism only at Israel but also at the Palestinian Authority, for failing to give enough attention to Area C in its national strategies.
"The Palestinian Reform and Development Plan 2008-2010 did not take area C into full consideration, nor gave recommendations on how to deal with the needs of its residents. Similarly, the new Palestinian National Development Plan 2011-2013 does not give clear guidance on how the Palestinians would like to deal with area C, seam zones and east Jerusalem,” the EU report said.
Despite this criticism of PA policies, the report does indicate that the bi-annual national plan composed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad included infrastructure-development projects in Area C.
Many of those ventures never came to fruition, despite efforts by Quartet and EU officials, among others, as a result of what the report said was Israeli efforts to block them.
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