Smotrich announces plans to demolish Palestinian buildings in West Bank, diminish PA authority

Smotrich announces plans to demolish Palestinian buildings in West Bank, diminish PA authority
The plans would see Israel exert authority over areas A and B of the West Bank, which are currently solely the administration of the Palestinian Authority.
3 min read
20 July, 2023
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has previously denied the existence of a Palestinian nation [Getty]

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced his office was working on plans to demolish Palestinian buildings in zones A and B of the occupied West Bank during a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

Smotrich – who is also in charge of most of the Civil Administration, Israel's governing body in the West Bank – stated that the demolitions of buildings would be allowed if they were deemed "national security threats."

The far-right minister also said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in the process, with aims to have the plan completed within a month to "get it validated by the prime minister and bring it to the cabinet."

The meeting of the committee where the announcement was made was on the subject of "The Palestinian Authority’s takeover of open areas of Judea and Samaria and the Israeli response."

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Requested by Likud Knesset Member Avichay Buaron and chaired by Likud Knesset Member Yuli Yoel Edelstein, the meeting was dedicated to the Israeli response to the 'Fayyad Plan'.

Edelstein called it a "deliberate plan to smother the development of [Jewish] communities" in the West Bank, and was occurring "not only in Area C, but in Areas A and B as well."

The 'Fayyad Plan', proposed in 2009 by then-Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Salam Fayyad, sought to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza within the 1967 borders.

However, the PA's ability to build on land is often rejected by Israeli authorities, with army representatives telling the committee meeting that it rejected 90 to 95 percent of Palestinian building requests for the West Bank, as opposed to approving 60 to 70 percent of Israelis.

During the meeting, Smotrich questioned why the Israeli government had not responded to the 'Fayyad Plan' and subsequent construction plans by Palestinians in the West Bank, which had been described earlier by Buaron as part of a "Palestinian campaign to reshape the area".

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Smotrich further said that the demolition plans would also entail an eventual "cabinet decision to define the Palestinian Authority’s activity as hostile political activity".

"The key to our ability to operate in Areas A and B is dependent on the definition of the term national security and what is related to Israel’s national security interests," he said.

As well as demolishing houses, there was also plans to create a new Border Police unit that will enforce construction law.

Likewise, there are joint plans to plant 2,500 acres of trees in the West Bank alongside the Jewish National Fund because "the [PA] actively works to seize lands. We need to do the same thing."

Speaking with Haaretz, Labor Knesset Member Gilad Kariv commented that the meeting confirmed "Israel has two prime ministers. One speaks about the need to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, and the other moves to annihilate it."

He also said that the Israeli public "must understand that the annexation overhaul is galloping ahead at no slower pace than the legal overhaul, and in much more sophisticated fashion."

Israel does not legally have authority over Areas A and B in the West Bank as stipulated in the Oslo accords.

According to Israeli Channel 14, the Israel recently signed a deal with the PA to suspend raids in Jenin, which is in Area A, to allow the PA to assert authority over the city.

The agreement came following a deadly Israeli raid earlier this month that killed at least 12 and wounded over 100. It was the largest raid on the town since the Second Intifada and saw the use of drone strikes.