'Israeli annexation of Area C in West Bank will escalate the violence'

Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel © Ronen Zvulun
Israeli officials are willing to expel Palestinians out of the so-called Area C of the West Bank - four percent of the Palestinian population - and annex it to Israel, a move that will stir up new tensions, Dr. Saad Nimer from Birzeit University told RT.

The Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has proposed annexing a large part of the West Bank and expelling some 300,000 Palestinians living there.

The minister dismissed the local population, saying annexation would be simple as "there are no Arabs at all" there. But according to a UN report, there are about 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C.

The land in question falls under full Israeli control according to the 1995 Second Oslo Accord. It compromises 60 percent of the West Bank.

The Oslo agreement divides the whole territory of the West Bank into 3 areas - 'A', 'B' and 'C', controlled by either Israel, Palestinians or the Palestinian civil authority with Israeli military control. Such a division was only intended to be temporary with authority set to be transferred to Palestinians at a later date. However, for more than 20 years the agreement has never been revised.

The Palestinian authorities have already attacked the proposal as "demeaning, racist and dehumanizing", and are calling for the respect of Palestinians' rights and freedoms.

RT: For now, this is only a proposal, but is Israel able to annex this part of the West Bank from a legal point of view?

Dr. Saad Nimer: From the legal point of view and international law – definitely not. It is occupied territories and it is treated under the Fourth and Third Geneva Conventions. The Israelis cannot annex it. But if the Israelis would do it or not this is another issue. Because we are used to Israel… doing things, thinking that they are above the law and they are breaking and violating international laws. As a matter of fact this idea is not a new one – it is an old one and it started with Ariel Sharon when he said: “I am going to negotiate with the Palestinians for the next 20 years and all they will get is 40 percent of the West Bank; they can call it a Palestinian state, they can call it an empire as far as I am concerned.”

I think they meant it from the very beginning to annex the largest part of the West Bank, which is 60 percent with only 4 percent of the population living on it. It is the Area C. It was already in the minds of Israel to annex it. There were so many calls to annex Area C. The latest came from the Agricultural Minister of Israel, knowing that the Israeli government is right-wing today, especially with the latest addition of Avigdor Lieberman as the Minister of Defense. In his own program, Lieberman says that we have to expel the Palestinians, to transfer the Palestinians. I don’t think it would be weird for them to do it. They’ve been talking about this for quite a long time, and they are willing for expel these Palestinians – four percent of the population - out of Area C and annex it to Israel.  

RT: It's estimated that some 300,000 Palestinians are living in Area C; the rest of the territory is inhabited by Israeli settlers. So wouldn't relocating the Palestinians actually be a good thing in terms of reducing tension and violence?

SN: I believe that that will aggravate everything back again. Because we know that 60 percent of the West Bank - this is the largest area of the West Bank in comparison to the rest of the areas which is mostly populated with cities and villages. The rest of the area – Area C - is mainly an agricultural area. We know the settlers are staying there and most of the settlements are there. But still, we are talking about a large amount of private land for Palestinian owners which is situated in Area C. I believe that if the Israelis took that measure against Area C and annex it that would definitely escalate the situation furthermore, and [create] more violence in the area and will complicate the conflict even further.

RT: Speaking of violence, tensions have been extremely high in the region since last autumn. Isn't this proposal only going to add fuel to the flames?

SN: When you drive the Palestinians from their livelihood and you confiscate their land which is the main land they are benefiting out of in agriculture, definitely that would make the whole situation worse for the Palestinians, especially economically. And then I would not rule out another Intifada, but this time it would be large… with all the population - not only what’s happened since October till now. I am talking about the full scale intifada like the first Intifada in 1987. It will be huge and more aggressive in this respect.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.