September 16, 2019
The Oslo Accords’ Last Remnants Are Under Fire. Don’t Let Them Die.Roundup
tags: Israel, Palestine, Oslo Accords
Dr. Koplow is an advocate for a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Michael J. Koplow is the policy director of the Israel Policy Forum in Washington.
Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to immediately annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley after Israel’s election on Sept. 17, should he emerge victorious.
Under the radar, the Israelis and Palestinians have already set ominous precedents in administering their divided territories that will be extremely difficult to back away from and promise an incendiary environment for any talks about a lasting peace.
In short, the longstanding rules of temporary side-by-side coexistence in the West Bank, as set out under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, are already being violated, and bit by bit both sides are taking steps that would nullify the remaining vestiges of the accords. If that trend continues, what is shaping events on the ground now may render any type of future division impossible.
Here is the problem: Oslo created clear lines of administrative control in the West Bank for Israel and the Palestinians by dividing the territory into distinct zones in which each side is responsible for day-to-day governing. Areas A and B are under Palestinian Authority administrative control, and Area C is under Israeli administrative control. While there have been numerous and continuing violations by both sides when it comes to security responsibility, that has not been the case with administrative responsibility. Until recently, Israel exercised its administrative control of Area C without attempting to extend its administrative reach into Areas A and B, while the Palestinian Authority ran Areas A and B with respect for Israel’s monopoly on governing Area C.
But in the past two months, those basic ground rules have been deeply breached over the seemingly mundane issue of building permits. In late July, Israel took the first step by demolishing Palestinian homes in Areas A and B in the West Bank neighborhood of Wadi al-Hummus. What made these demolitions extraordinary is that the homes in question were in territory where Israel does not claim to be the governing authority, and the homes in question had building permits issued by the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli government argued that even though these homes were legally built in an area under Palestinian Authority control, they were built too close to Israel’s security barrier and therefore had to be demolished for security purposes. The demolitions were carried out after Israel’s Supreme Court accepted that rationale, and the precedent this set effectively destroyed the equilibrium that had reigned in the West Bank.
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