While the usual narrative about the Israel-Palestinian conflict points to Israel’s construction of settlements as a major obstacle to peace, the truth is that it is the Palestinian Authority (PA) that is building new settlements to increase its footprint. It is doing so in Area C, the part of the West Bank designated by the Oslo Accords as remaining under Israeli control pending further negotiations. Hillel Frisch writes:
[T]he PA over the past decade has been winning the battle for control over Area C. In 2009, the majority of built-up space in Area C was populated by Jews (47,000 dunams compared to 46,000 for the Palestinians). By 2019, after an unrelenting ten-year settlement push directed by the PA, most of the built-up space is Palestinian (79,000 dunams compared to 57,000 inhabited by Jews). Such a feat rivals even the most successful settlement projects of the Jewish Agency during the British Mandate. Indeed, it may even outshine them.
More important than the number of dwellings that were constructed are the qualitative dimensions of the building spree. The clusters were created as part of a strategic plan conceived in 2009 by the PA’s then-prime-minister Salam Fayyad, a former senior economist at the World Bank, to create the state of Palestine from the ground up rather than leave it to diplomacy.
Behind the PA’s successful strategic settlement drive stands an array of EU and UN institutions that both finance the project and provide much of the planning and know-how. These institutions do this either directly, or indirectly by offering capacity-building programs and venues. The Palestinian goal of seizing control over Area C also involves organized protest and violence, which is directed both from the ground up and from the highest government echelons down.