Area C (West Bank)

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Area C in blue and light blue. East Jerusalem in red

Area C (Hebrew: שטח C; Arabic: منطقة ج) is the fully Israeli-controlled and only contiguous territory in the West Bank,[1] defined as the whole area outside the Palestinian enclaves (Areas A and B).[2] Area C constitutes about 61 percent of the West Bank territory, contains all Israeli settlements other than those in East Jerusalem, and more than 99% of the area is off limits or heavily restricted for Palestinians.[3][1] The area was committed in 1995 under the Oslo II Accord to be "gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction" (with an option for land swaps under a final agreement), but such transfer did not happen.[4]: vii  The area is richly endowed with natural resources.[1]

Area C (excluding East Jerusalem), which along with Area B is under Israeli military control since June 1967, is home to roughly 400,000 Israeli settlers,[5] and approximately 300,000 Palestinians, who live in more than 500 residential areas located partially or fully in Area C.[6] The Jewish population in Area C is administered by the Israeli Judea and Samaria Area administration, into which Israeli law is "pipelined", whereas the Palestinian population is directly administered by the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories under military law. The Palestinian Authority is responsible for medical and educational services to Palestinians in Area C; however, infrastructure construction and supervision is done by Israel.[7]

The international community considers the settlements in occupied territory to be illegal,[8][9][10][11][12][13] and the United Nations has repeatedly upheld the view that Israel's construction of settlements constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.[14][15][16][17] Israel disputes the position of the international community and the legal arguments that were used to declare the settlements illegal.[18] The "outposts" are in contravention of Israeli law as well.[19]


The Israeli Civil Administration was established by the government of Israel in 1981, in order to carry out practical bureaucratic functions within the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. While formally separate, it was subordinate to the Israeli military and the Shin Bet.[20]: 133 [21]: 108 

The Civil Administration is a part of a larger entity known as Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is a unit in the Defense Ministry of Israel. Its functions have largely been taken over by the Palestinian National Authority in 1994, however it still continues a limited operation to manage Palestinian population in the Area C of the West Bank and coordination with the Palestinian government.[citation needed]

Oslo Accords

The Oslo II Accord divided the West Bank into three administrative divisions: the Areas A, B and C. The distinct areas were given a different status, according to the amount of self-government the local Palestinians would have over it through the Palestinian Authority, until a final status accord would be established.

The Areas A and B were chosen in such a way as to just contain Palestinians, by drawing lines around Palestinian population centers at the time the Agreement was signed; Area C was defined as "areas of the West Bank outside Areas A and B, which, except for the issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will be gradually transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction in accordance with this Agreement."[4]: 8 [22] Area A comprises approximately 18% of the West Bank and Area B about 22%, together home to some 2.8 million Palestinians.[23]

Area C was initially around 72–74% (first phase, 1995) of the West Bank.[24][25] Under the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, Israel would further withdraw from some additional 13% from Area C to Area B, which officially reduced Area C to circa 61% of the West Bank.[26][27] Israel, however, withdrew from only 2%,[28] and during Operation Defensive Shield, it reoccupied all territory. As of 2013, Area C formally comprised about 63% of the West Bank, including settlements, outposts and declared "state land".[22] Including or excluding East Jerusalem, no-man's land and the Palestinian part of the Dead Sea also determines the percentage.

Geography, resources and policy

Area C is richly endowed with natural resources, including most of Palestinian agricultural and grazing land. It is the only contiguous part of the West Bank, thus all large scale projects involve work in Area C.[4]: vii 

Settlements and housing policy

Map of Israeli settlements, as of 2020
Modi'in Illit

Area C, excluding East Jerusalem, is home to 385,900 Israeli settlers[5] and approximately 300,000 Palestinians.[6] According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, Israeli planning and zoning regimes in Area C all but prohibit Palestinian construction in almost 70 percent this zone, and render the obtaining of permits in the remaining 30 percent nearly impossible.[29]

Israel strictly controls Palestinian settlement, construction and development in Area C.[22]: 5 in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012, only 211 Palestinian submissions for Israeli permits, out of 3,750 applications (5.6%) – were approved. The figure tails off for the last 4 years, 2009 through 2012 with 37 permits given from among 1,640 applications (2.3%).[30] By contrast, the same Civil Administration figures indicate that in approximately 75% of Israeli settlements, construction was undertaken without regard for the appropriate permits.[30]

According to a UNOCHA report, "The planning and zoning regime applied by the Israeli authorities, including the ways in which public land is allocated, makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in most of Area C. Even basic residential and livelihood structures, such as a tent or a fence, require a building permit."[19]: 3  According to B'tselem:

Israel strictly limits Palestinian settlement, construction and development in Area C,while ignoring the needs of the Palestinian population. This policy means Palestinian residents must subsist in very rudimentary living conditions. They are denied any legal avenue to build homes or develop their communities, so they face the constant fear that their homes might be demolished, and that they be expelled and lose their livelihood.[30]

Israel routinely issued demolition orders on Palestinian structures built without permits. Between 1988 and 2014, Israel issued 14,087 demolition orders, of which only a minority (20%) have been executed. The remaining orders do not expire, leaving the structures in a continuous state of uncertainty.[19]: 3–5 

Positions on demolitions

According to the Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions:

Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

Israeli demolitions are based on British mandate planning rules, which are evoked to justify demolitions, but at the same time Israel does not employ the Mandatory provisions for the granting of construction permits, according to B'tselem.[30]

Israel defends its policy on three grounds. Firstly, it states that the demolitions satisfy Jordanian law, which was operative at the time Israel occupied the territories. Secondly, it states that its actions satisfy Article 43 of the Hague conventions. Thirdly, it states that under the 1995 Oslo Accords, it was agreed that planning and zoning in Area C would fall under the appropriate planning committees.[19]: 3–4  Israel also defends demolitions in terms of the safety of the inhabitants of homes it demolishes because they have been built in closed military zones or firing zones. Israel has defined roughly 20% of the entire West Bank as "closed military areas" and 60% of the demolitions in 2010 took place in the latter.[31]

Critics respond that the declaration of areas as Israeli closed military zones is a legal device adopted by the military authorities to deny Palestinians access to their land.[31] B'tselem claims that the refusal of the military-run Civil Administration to set down development plans for Palestinian villages are based variously on arguments that such sites are either situated near archaeological areas, that communities can relocate to nearby Palestinian land reserves, and that what it defines as "collections of illegal structures", though villages, were not planned. These arguments are applied when issuing demolition orders for villages that are built on village land, and have existed for decades.[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Niksic, Orhan; Nasser Eddin, Nur; Cali, Massimiliano (10 July 2014). Area C and the Future of the Palestinian Economy. The World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0193-8. hdl:10986/18930. ISBN 978-1-4648-0193-8. The economic significance of Area C lies in that it is the only contiguous territory in the West Bank, which renders it indispensable to connective infrastructure development across the West Bank... Area C is richly endowed with natural resources and it is contiguous, whereas Areas A and B are smaller territorial islands... Less than 1 percent of Area C, which is already built up, is designated by the Israeli authorities for Palestinian use; the remainder is heavily restricted or off-limits to Palestinians, with 68 percent reserved for Israeli settlements, c. 21 percent for closed military zones, and c. 9 percent for nature reserves... In practice it is virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits for residential or economic purposes, even within existing Palestinian villages in Area C... The same is true for the extraction of natural resources and development of public infrastructure.
  2. ^ In the definition of West Bank Areas in the Oslo II Accord it is defined as "areas of the West Bank outside Areas A and B".
  3. ^ The demise of the Oslo process. Joel Beinin, MERIP, 26 March 1999. "In area B, consisting of about 23 percent of the territory (including some 440 villages and their surrounding lands), the Palestinians are responsible for certain municipal functions, while joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols maintain internal security. Area C, consisting of about 74 percent of the territory including all of the 145 settlements and the new Jewish neighborhoods in and around East Jerusalem, remains under full Israeli control".
  4. ^ a b c "Area C and the future of Palestinian economy" (PDF). World Bank. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Localities and Population, by Population Group, District, Sub-District and Natural Region". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Hass, Amira (5 March 2014). "UN Report: 300,000 Palestinians Live in Area C of West Bank". Haaretz. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Acting the Landlord: Israel's policy in Area C, the West Bank" (PDF). B'Tselem. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  8. ^ Roberts, Adam (1990). "Prolonged Military Occupation: The Israeli-Occupied Territories Since 1967". The American Journal of International Law. 84 (1). American Society of International Law: 85–86. doi:10.2307/2203016. JSTOR 2203016. S2CID 145514740. The international community has taken a critical view of both deportations and settlements as being contrary to international law. General Assembly resolutions have condemned the deportations since 1969, and have done so by overwhelming majorities in recent years. Likewise, they have consistently deplored the establishment of settlements, and have done so by overwhelming majorities throughout the period (since the end of 1976) of the rapid expansion in their numbers. The Security Council has also been critical of deportations and settlements; and other bodies have viewed them as an obstacle to peace, and illegal under international law.
  9. ^ Pertile, Marco (2005). "'Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory': A Missed Opportunity for International Humanitarian Law?". In Conforti, Benedetto; Bravo, Luigi (eds.). The Italian Yearbook of International Law. Vol. 14. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 141. ISBN 978-90-04-15027-0. the establishment of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been considered illegal by the international community and by the majority of legal scholars.
  10. ^ Barak-Erez, Daphne (2006). "Israel: The security barrier—between international law, constitutional law, and domestic judicial review". International Journal of Constitutional Law. 4 (3). Oxford University Press: 548. doi:10.1093/icon/mol021. The real controversy hovering over all the litigation on the security barrier concerns the fate of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Since 1967, Israel has allowed and even encouraged its citizens to live in the new settlements established in the territories, motivated by religious and national sentiments attached to the history of the Jewish nation in the land of Israel. This policy has also been justified in terms of security interests, taking into consideration the dangerous geographic circumstances of Israel before 1967 (where Israeli areas on the Mediterranean coast were potentially threatened by Jordanian control of the West Bank ridge). The international community, for its part, has viewed this policy as patently illegal, based on the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibit moving populations to or from territories under occupation.
  11. ^ Drew, Catriona (1997). "Self-determination and population transfer". In Bowen, Stephen (ed.). Human rights, self-determination and political change in the occupied Palestinian Hkterritories. International studies in human rights. Vol. 52. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-90-411-0502-8. It can thus clearly be concluded that the transfer of Israeli settlers into the occupied territories violates not only the laws of belligerent occupation but the Palestinian right of self-determination under international law. The question remains, however, whether this is of any practical value. In other words, given the view of the international community that the Israeli settlements are illegal under the law if belligerent occupation...
  12. ^ International Labour Organization (2005). "The situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories" (PDF). p. 14. The international community considers Israeli settlements within the occupied territories illegal and in breach of, inter alia, United Nations Security Council resolution 465 of 1 March 1980 calling on Israel "to dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem".
  13. ^ Civilian and military presence as strategies of territorial control: The Arab-Israel conflict, David Newman, Political Geography Quarterly Volume 8, Issue 3, July 1989, Pages 215–227
  14. ^ "UN Security Council Resolution 465". Archived from the original on 19 September 2015.
  15. ^ "What next for Gaza and West Bank?". BBC. 30 August 2005. Retrieved 5 January 2010. Most Israelis support the pullout, but some feel the government has given in to Palestinian militant groups, and worry that further withdrawals will follow. Palestinian critics point out that Gaza will remain under Israeli control, and that they are being denied a political say in the disengagement process.
  16. ^ Yearbook of the United Nations 2005. United Nations Publications. 2007. p. 514. ISBN 9789211009675. The Israeli Government was preparing to implement an unprecedented initiative: the disengagement of all Israeli civilians and forces from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of four settlements in the northern West Bank.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Yael Yishai (1987). Land Or Peace. Hoover Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780817985233. During 1982 Israel's government stuck to its territorial policy in word and deed. All the settlements in Sinai were evacuated in accordance with the Camp David Accords, but settlement activity in the other territories continued uninterrupted. A few days after the final withdrawal from Sinai had been completed, Begin announced that he would introduce a resolution barring future governments from dismantling settlements, even as a result of peace negotiations.
  18. ^ "Israel, the Conflict and Peace: Answers to frequently asked questions". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. November 2007. Are Israeli settlements legal?
  19. ^ a b c d "Under Threat: Demolition orders in Area C of the West Bank" (PDF). United Nations. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  20. ^ Ahron Bregman (5 June 2014). Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 978-1-84614-735-7.
  21. ^ Neve Gordon (2 October 2008). Israel's Occupation. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-94236-3.
  22. ^ a b c What is Area C?. B'Tselem, 9 October 2013
  23. ^ "Estimated Population in the Palestinian Territory Mid-Year by Governorate,1997-2016". Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. State of Palestine. Archived from the original on 8 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  24. ^ Gvirtzman, Haim. "Maps of Israeli Interests in Judea and Samaria Determining the Extent of the Additional Withdrawals". (this study was funded by the Settlement Division of the Zionist Organization)
  25. ^ MFA, "Map No. 1 – First Phase of Redeployment"
  26. ^ New York Times, 23 July 2012, "Israel Seeks Army Use of West Bank Area"
  27. ^ "West Bank: Area C Map". UNISPAL, 22 February 2011; from OCHAoPt Archived 8 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ The demise of the Oslo process. Joel Beinin, MERIP, 26 March 1999. In area B, consisting of about 23 percent of the territory (including some 440 villages and their surrounding lands), the Palestinians are responsible for certain municipal functions, while joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols maintain internal security. Area C, consisting of about 74 percent of the territory including all of the 145 settlements and the new Jewish neighborhoods in and around East Jerusalem, remains under full Israeli control.
  29. ^ 'Fact Sheet: Building Permits in Area C of the West Bank,' Archived April 19, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Norwegian Refugee Council
  30. ^ a b c d e Acting the Landlord:Israel's Policy in Area C, the West Bank, B'tselem June 2013 p.5.
  31. ^ a b 'Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Nablus-area 'firing zone',' Ma'an News Agency 9 February 2016.