The Oslo Accords, which were signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, carved the West Bank into three areas: A, B, and C. The Accords placed areas A and B – the region that covers all Palestinian cities and central population centers – under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority, with shared Israeli-Palestinian security responsibilities.
The PA announced plans to violate the Oslo Accords unilaterally by canceling the West Bank’s division into Area A, B, and C and treating the entire area as sovereign Palestinian territory. Even before that announcement, the Palestinians built settlements in Area C, where Israel must approve any construction.
Illegal settlements and infrastructure have spread across 250 Area C locations occupying more than 2,000 acres. The PA has offered incentives, such as tax exemptions, discounts for vehicle registration, and jobs for those who settle in Area C.
European countries, which routinely criticize Israeli settlements, provide funding for constructing the illegal Palestinian settlements. The Jerusalem Post reported in 2022 that the European Union contributed a half-a-billion dollars over the previous seven years to support a PA plan to control Area C.
The Palestinian building projects, journalist Edwin Black notes, “are not natural Arab urban growth or urban sprawl.” He says they are meant to “carve up Area C, sometimes surround Jewish villages, and sometimes push onto Israeli nature or military reserves.”
Palestinians have complained about the slow process of obtaining building permits from the Civil Administration and the high rejection rate. Black related that the number of applications has dropped because the Palestinians “deny Israel’s right to issue them” and “just start building.”
The courts hamstring Israel’s efforts to stop the illegal construction. Despite lacking citizenship, Palestinians can petition Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, and do so with the help of well-funded NGOs. A military spokesman told Black, “It can take years to decide …. Meanwhile, they are still building. We can’t do anything about it.” If the court ultimately rules in Israel’s favor, the government is denounced by critics for demolishing the illegal structures.
By building settlements, the Palestinians are trying to prevent Israel from creating a contiguous area for its future borders, precisely what Israel’s critics accuse it of doing. The Palestinians often complain that a future state would look like Swiss cheese because of the geographic distribution of Jewish communities, but they are creating the holes themselves by establishing isolated settlements separated from the main population centers and nearer Jewish towns. Moreover, by claiming sovereignty in Area C, the Palestinians have violated the Oslo Accords, further undermining Israeli confidence that they can be trusted to honor the terms of any future agreement.
The PA and the EU argue that the territory should be allocated for the creation of a Palestinian state. Nearly 500,000 Israelis and an estimated 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C.
Though Israel has the right to build in Area C, some structures have been built illegally. According to Naomi Linder Kahn, Director, International Division for Regavim
Sources: Jack Khoury, “Palestinian Authority Decides to End Division of West Bank Into Areas Set by Oslo Accords,” Haaretz, (August 31, 2019).
Yaakov Eliraz, “Israel needs to wake up: The PA is taking over Area C,” Jewish News Service, (July 28, 2019).
Edwin Black, Who’s Funding Illegal Palestinian Settlements in Area C – Nearly 10,000 Cases,” Jewish News Service, (August 15, 2019).
Edwin Black, “Who’s funding illegal Palestinian settlements in Area C? Links to terrorists,” JNS, August 21, 2019).
Benjamin Weinthal, “EU and UN Illegally Funding Palestinian Projects,” inFocus, (Spring 2023).
Email from Linder Kahn, Director, International Division, Regavim.
Map courtesy of Regavim.