Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to Likud ministers in a meeting on Sunday that Israel would not transfer “even one meter” of territory to the Palestinian Authority.
But it was not really clear whether the prime minister was talking about territory in Area C with mutual swaps, or Area C “unilaterally,” or Area C in negotiations, or elsewise.
In fact, nothing was clear at all, except that he was adamant that there would be no unilateral transfer of territory, which is not the same thing as a properly negotiated transfer in a mutually worked out agreement, which may still be on the table.
“There won’t be any transfer of territory of the Palestinians, not 40,000 [dunam], not 10,000 [dunam] and not even one meter,” Netanyahu was quoted as by Ynet as saying in a meeting with Likud ministers. In that gathering he was referring to a report about handing over portions of Area C to the Palestinian Authority – something that was never an issue under the Oslo Accords in any case.
But the issue was indeed raised after Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, accused the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the IDF Civil Administration of working on a plan to do exactly that: to transfer 10,000 dunam of territory in Area C to the Palestinian Authority. It’s a plan that former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk had also discussed in the past, and raised again recently while on a visit to Tel Aviv.
There were also reports last week that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected a proposal by Netanyahu to allow Arabs to build in some parts of Area C in exchange for ending the current wave of terror – and for the U.S. to acknowledge Israel’s right to build in the primary “settlement blocs” in which its Jewish communities are located in Judea and Samaria.
It has long been believed that those areas will likely remain part of Israel in any final status agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
To sweeten the deal, there were reports that Netanyahu had also offered to transfer some of the territory in Area C to the PA – but none of the reports were confirmed.
Dagan, however, insisted that he knew COGAT was advancing a plan to offer one part of Area C to the PA and reclassify it as Area B instead.
Under the Oslo Accords, Area C is totally under Israeli civil administrative and security control; Area B is under the security control of Israel, but Areas B and A are under the civil and administrative control of the Palestinian Authority. Area A is totally under the Palestinian Authority control, including security.
Outraged, Dagan asked Likud ministers to raise the issue at their Sunday morning meeting with Netanyahu, warning that to grant such a deal in the middle of a wave of terror would be tantamount to rewarding the attacks.
He also demanded that Netanyahu order COGAT and the IDF Civil Administration which administers the territories to stop working on such plans.
With increased numbers of IDF units carrying out security missions in all sectors of Judea and Samaria literally every night, however, it is more likely such a plan would be sabotaged long before it got off the ground, even if it were to be raised.
The IDF has shut down three separate PA radio stations for incitement, including one that was shut down just this weekend, early Sunday.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in a radio interview on Israel Radio on Sunday that Israel’s conflict “did not start today and won’t end [tomorrow].