Israel Preventing Development of Palestinian-owned Land Near Separation Barrier

IDF preventing building or development on almost 4,700 dunams of land on the Palestinian side of the barrier for security reasons.

Israel is preventing development in Palestinian lands adjacent to the separation barrier, despite these areas being under Palestinian civilian control according to the Oslo Accords.

Although the peace process based on these accords is in a stalemate, Israel is using several clauses in the accords to issue decrees preventing development as well as seizure decrees affecting thousands of dunams, according to Dror Etkes, who researches Israeli takeover of land in the West Bank.

Israel claims that the Palestinian Authority enjoys almost complete control of its affairs - the PA has civilian and military control over 18 percent of the West Bank (Area A), and civilian control in 22 percent of the West Bank (Area B), but exploits the clauses in the accords that state that when necessary it can apply security measures in these areas.

In addition to urgent cases - such as arresting wanted Palestinians in Areas A and B - the Defense Ministry uses its authority in these areas in other ways as well.

A striking example is Israel's policy towards the lands bordering the separation barrier. The IDF is preventing building or development in almost 4,700 dunams of land on the Palestinian side of the barrier (in Areas A and B), for security reasons. On the one hand, Israel maintains that the Palestinian enjoy semi-independence in the areas under their civilian control, but at the same time it issues military decrees in these areas.

In addition, there are also 1,870 dunams in Areas A and B that are subject to confiscation for the construction of roads following the erection of the separation barrier. The result of these two moves is a significant limitation on the use that Palestinians can make of areas received in the Oslo Accord.

The Defense Ministry says, in response, that the decrees issued concerning these lands are legal and have been approved by the High Court of Justice. Construction bans were issued on areas on the eastern, Palestinian, side of the separation barrier, preventing building between 100 and 250 meters from the fence. In 2011, 71 such bans were renewed in Area B, and four more in Area A, in all, comprising 3,950 dunams. The decrees also limit building in several Palestinian towns and neighborhoods in Area A, such as Anata, Dahiat Al-Barid in north Jerusalem, Abu Dis south of Jerusalem, and Beit Sahour in the Bethlehem area. In Anata, the Civil Administration issued a demolition order this month against several houses built near the fence.

Regarding bans on building near the separation barrier, a security source told Haaretz that the High Court of Justice has approved such decrees in two rulings in the mid-2000's. The source explained that the IDF prevents building on both sides of the fence in the 500-kilometer route of the fence, except in places where the fence was built in already constructed areas. The source said that the bans were meant to prevent effective use of light weapons against IDF patrols near the fence, to make it harder to plant explosives or to place observation posts.

Most of the second form of decrees, the confiscation decrees, were issued after the Oslo Accord, and concern land in Areas A and B. In all, some 115 confiscation decrees were issued, 99 concerning Area B and 16 concerning land in Area A. Most of the decrees address lands adjacent to the fence and are used for the road system built around the fence. Some of these roads are alternative roads, paved for use by the Palestinians, after the fence made the use of other roads impossible.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson said that most of the confiscation decrees were issued in Area C and in Israel, and only a minority of the decrees affected Area B, and that the High Court of Justice approved such actions.

Etkes, who gathered the information concerning the decrees responded by saying that "Israel insists that the PA is semi-independent, and says it hopes to negotiate with it. But when this sweet story conflicts with other interests, Israel is well aware that in fact this is occupied area which can be directly controlled by military decrees, without the mediation of the PA leadership in Ramallah."