How the Palestinian Authority Is Expanding Its Control over the West Bank

Feb. 23 2021

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.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: European Union, Palestinian Authority, United Nations, West Bank

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform