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The Palestinian Authority's role in Judaising the West Bank

January 24, 2014 at 4:10 am

The signs are that the Palestinian Authority is playing a key role in enhancing the settlement project in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem through its influential role in improving the security environment for the settlements, allowing these areas to attract new groups of Israelis.

The PA’s has partnered with Israel in its intelligence cooperation and security arrangements in the war against the resistance movements in the West Bank. The Ramallah government’s agencies’ role in getting rid of the Palestinian resistance has contributed to enhancing the sense of personal and collective security amongst the settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which, in turn, has convinced new groups of Jewish people to settle in the West Bank.

Ian an extensive investigation by Israeli journalist, Josh Breiner, on the Walla news website in September he concluded that the PA’s security cooperation with Israel has turned the Jewish settlements in the West Bank into the “garden of Eden” for many Jewish people and has encouraged them to exploit the great opportunities available to them there.

According to Breiner, the motivation to settle in the West Bank has grown over the last 3 years because the efforts of the Ramallah authority’s security services to eliminate the resistance’s foundation in the West Bank has reduced the Israelis fear of living in the West Bank.

Contributing to the Judaisation of the West Bank

The clearest result of the improved security environment in West Bank Jewish settlements, thanks to the PA’s efforts, is the participation of more secular Jews in the settlement project.

Since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, most of the Jews who settled in the West Bank were religious Zionists motivated by their religious ideological convictions. The few secularists who settled in the West Bank made sure to reside in settlements located near the Green Line, which separates the borders between the West Bank and Israel. These settlements were described as “the safest” because of their relative distance from Palestinian residential areas.

However, the improvement of the security situation in the West Bank and reduction of risks as a result of operations carried out by resistance movements against West Bank settlements, due to PA and Israeli raids against the resistance movements, has persuaded secular Jews to move to the West Bank and take advantage of the enormous economic benefits that successive Israeli governments have offered the settlers.

The data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) indicates that young Jewish couples living in Israeli areas suffering from economic hardship, particularly towns under development and lower-class neighbourhoods in major cities are now moving to settlements in the West Bank. There they can benefit from economic advantages, such as housing loans, tax cuts, job opportunities and a better quality of education, wages, bonuses, and other benefits.

Although, these advantages have always been offered, what is new is the improved security environment in the West Bank because of the PA’s efforts. This has driven the secularists to not only reside in settlements deep in the West Bank but even in remote settlements. The second shift, as a result of the PA’s improvement of security for the settlers, is that Orthodox Jews (Haredi) have also discovered the advantages of settling in the West Bank.

Unlike the Zionist religious trend, the religious Haredi’s prefer to remain traditional and live in big groups, such as in Jerusalem or the city of Bnei Brak, located northeast of Tel Aviv, in order to reduce their contact with the secularists.

Because of the improved security conditions in the West Bank the Haredis have discovered the advantages of living in settlements, as they provided them with an isolated environment allowing them to exercise their special religious and social lifestyles, as well as gain economic benefits.

Two Haredi movements, Shas and Yehudit HaTorah, took advantage of their participation in the last Israeli governments and pushed for the construction of four Haredi cities in different areas of the West Bank; Kiryat Sefer, Immanuel, Pisgat Ze’ev and Modi’in.

With the secularists and Haredis joining the settlement project the number of settlers in the West Bank has increased by 5 per cent in 2012 alone and the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has now reached three times the number inside Israel. The ICBS data indicates that the PA is contributing to the Judaisation of the West Bank through its continued security cooperation with the occupation.

Improving settlement economies

The PA’s security cooperation has not only made settlements more attractive to the Jewish people, but it plays a key role in improving the economies of the settlements.

The investigations published by Walla in September indicated that the Jewish settlements have monopolised a large portion of domestic tourism because of the role played by the PA in improving the security of the settlements.

Moreover, due to the improved security environment, the industrial complex, Volcano, near the Ariel settlement, located northwest of the West Bank, has become one of the most important industrial complexes for Israel. It has also expanded its sectors, as an increasing number of Jewish investors are looking to construct factories in the area. This complex was paralysed during the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada.

Rewarding settlers

After the death of two occupation soldiers in Hebron and Qalqilya and the wounding of a settler near Ramallah, the PA security agencies launched a wide-spread campaign of arrests against Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders and members.

Although there was no proof suggesting any connection between these two organisations and the incidents, the PA, acting on Israel’s demands, launched this campaign out of fear that a new resistance organisation would emerge in the West Bank.

The unpleasantness of the PA’s behaviour is highlighted by their concern for the security of Jewish settlers whilst crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank are growing in pace, ranging from attacks on people, their homes and the burning of mosques.

12 mosques have been burned so far, not to mention the bulldozed vineyards, uprooted trees and poisoned wells following incitements by rabbis closely linked to the ruling coalition.

Rabbi Dov Lior issued a ruling permitting the settlers to steal the Palestinians’ olives; Lior is the religious authority of the Jewish Home Party, the third largest party in the ruling coalition led by Netanyahu.

The irony is that 90 per cent of the complaints filed by Palestinians in the West Bank against the settlers have been closed. Meanwhile the PA leadership pays lip service by decrying the crimes of the settlers, while doing everything in their power to protect them.

Tempting Zionists with extremism

The history of the conflict with the Zionist entity has demonstrated that the ruling Israeli elites do not take the initiative to adopt a political solution when security is stabilised.

Since 1967 and until the first intifada in 1987, Israel ignored all initiatives to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. Only after the outbreak of the intifada and after the Zionist community paid a heavy price, did calls from inside Israel grow for the conflict to be resolved peacefully.

Now, due to the security stability, resistance operations have almost entirely stopped thanks to the cooperation of the PA in tracking down resistance leaders and their members. This has contributed to the increased extremism in the Israeli government’s positions.

In a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently at the Bar-Ilan University this extremism was clearly demonstrated. This speech was one of the most extremist right-wing speeches he has ever given during his political career.

Netanyahu warned the PA that the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness was a condition to the completion of any negotiations; if the Palestinians were to accept this, they would be giving up their right of return.

In addition to this, Netanyahu demanded that the PA approve all arrangements that Israel find are necessary to ensure its security.

Despite the fact that Netanyahu did not provide details about the nature of this request, the Israeli Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, made it clear that the security arrangements practically, mean maintaining Israeli control over the entire West Bank .

Israel continues to build settlements throughout the West Bank and oversee the continuance of the Judaisation of Jerusalem, to complete the Greater Jerusalem project, which aims to increase the number of Jews in the holy city and its surroundings to a million people.

It has reached the point now where some of Netanyahu’s ministers and party representatives are only organising and leading raids on al-Aqsa Mosque to provoke the Palestinians and try to establish new facts on the ground of the first kiblah. Uri Ariel even went against his government’s decision and prayed at the al-Aqsa Mosque, a move intended to invite the rest of the Jewish people to do the same.

MKs from the ruling coalition are working on drafting a bill calling for the division of the prayer times in the al- Aqsa Mosque between the Jews and Muslims, so that Muslims would be prohibited from entering the mosque during the Jewish prayer times, as is the case in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

The PA’s security agencies cooperation with Israel is contributing to the Judaisation of the West Bank and strengthens the settlement and Judaisation project. It is also tempting the Zionists to adopt more extreme positions towards the conflict. Is it logical for Abbas, who is claiming to represent the Palestinian people, to be the one contributing more than any other party to the invalidation of his own cause?

The author is a Palestinian writer. This article is a translation of the Arabic text published on Al Jazeera Net on 29 October, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.