Israel Prepares for First West Bank Census Since 1967 as Potential Annexation Nears

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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A Palestinian man is seen walking through the Jordan valley in the West Bank, June 6, 2020.
A Palestinian man is seen walking through the Jordan valley in the West Bank, June 6, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Israel’s Civil Administration is preparing for the possibility it will be required to conduct a population census for Palestinians living in Area C, ahead of potential annexation of parts of the West Bank.

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The purpose of the census is to determine how many Palestinians live in areas Israel plans to annex, as well as ensuring Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank don’t move to the areas to be annexed, in a bid to get a permanent status in Israel.

According to estimates by the United Nations, there are just under 300,000 Palestinians in towns and villages designated Area C, based on the Oslo Accords, meaning they are under full Israeli control. 60,000 of them reside in towns and villages entirely in Area C, while the rest in ones split between Area C and Areas A or B.

The planned census was first reported on Thursday by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Israel last held a census in the West Bank in 1967, and in recent weeks Civil Administration officials have been holding discussions on how a new one should be held. The administration doesn’t know yet exactly where the census will be held, as the Israeli government has yet to finalize its annexation plan.

A woman holds a sign at a demonstration against annexation at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

It is preparing for several scenarios, including violent response to the census.

The Civil Administration is also dealing with the possibility of unifying the West Bank’s land registry with the Israeli one in the case of annexation. Nowadays, the West Bank land registry is separated from the Israeli one and is also kept confidential.

Another issue in question is the status of Area C lands that would not be annexed by Israel, and whether they will be transferred to the authority of the Palestinian Authority, as is the case with Areas A and B, or continue to be administrated by the Israeli military.

Meanwhile, the Civil Administration is handling an uptick in requests by Palestinians following the cutting off of civilian and security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, particularly with applications for entry permits. These are expected to rise even more as restrictions on movement imposed by the Palestinians in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak are gradually being lifted.

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