Amira Hass writes: When Habayit Hayehudi party leader and rising political star Naftali Bennett calls for annexing Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli security and civil control, he is following the logic of every single Israeli government: maximize the territory, minimize the Arabs.
Some may even interpret this as elections propaganda in favor of Habayit Hayehudi and endorse it warmly.
Bennett can propose annexation because every governing coalition since the Six-Day War – whether it was led by the Likud or Labor (or its precursor, Alignment) party, and whether its partners were Mafdal, Shas or Meretz – laid the spiritual and policy groundwork for him.
According to Bennett, about 60 percent of the West Bank – a.k.a. Area C – is annexable. What’s important about Area C is not whether 50,000 Palestinians live there, as democratic, benevolent Bennett claims, while suggesting to naturalize them and grant them Israeli citizenship, or whether the number is around 150,000 (as my colleague Chaim Levinson reminded us earlier this week).
Don’t worry. Even if there are 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C and all of them agree to become citizens, the Israeli bureaucracy will find ways to embitter their lives (the way it does the lives of the Bedouin in the Negev), revoke their citizenship (the way it does the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem) and leave them without the little share of their land they still have (the way it did to the Palestinian citizens of Israel within the 1948 borders). This is why Bennett can allow himself to be munificent.
The true story behind area C is that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living there today; the villages have not expanded in accordance with their natural population growth; the number of residents has not grown; the herders can no longer graze their flocks freely; many of the inhabitants lack access to water, electricity, school and medical clinics; Israel has not been taken to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for destroying the cisterns; there are no paved roads in and between villages.
Many of the people have been living in tents and caves for 30 to 40 years – against their will and contrary to their hopes – and the Palestinian towns cannot expand properly and remove old industrial zones a reasonable distance from residential neighborhoods.
As I have said a million times and will say another million times: Area C is a tremendous success of Israeli policy and its implementers, the army and the Civil Administration. It is part of a farsighted, well-executed, perfectly thought-out policy that has succeeded precisely in that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living in the area. Bennett is probably decent/honest enough to acknowledge the debt he owes to the previous generations of Israeli politicians and military officials who warmed the country up for his annexation plan, ensuring its acceptance would be as effortless as a knife cutting butter in the sun.
In an interview on Israeli television in 2008, Uzi Arad, who went on to become Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, said:
[A]t the end of the day, I don’t think the majority of Israelis want to see themselves responsible for the Palestinians. We do not want to control the Palestinian population. It’s unnecessary. What we do want is to care for our borders, for the Jewish settlements and for areas which are unpopulated and to have our security interests served well. But also to take under our responsibility these populations which, believe me, are not the most productive on earth, would become a burden. We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations – not territories. It is territory we want to preserve, but populations we want to rid ourselves of.