I started to think that a formal, unilateral annexation of Israeli-controlled Area C is imminent in May, when I saw this video (Hebrew) advocating the move. A public relations ploy designed to convince Israelis that annexing Area C is good for their future—and that giving the Palestinians who live in the area citizenship or residency won’t disturb Israel’s demographic balance—the video was put on YouTube by settler leader Naftali Bennett.
After he made a fortune in high-tech, Bennett served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008 (before Netanyahu was Prime Minister). He went on to become the Director General of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization for Israeli settlements. Earlier this year, Bennett formed a new political party called My Israel. He also has ties to the extra-parliamentary movement Im Tirtzu.
While Bennett is not exactly a household name, he is influential, well-funded, and well-connected. He reflects trends within both the settler movement and the right-wing government that caters to settlers—echoing much of the rhetoric that Netanyahu dishes out about the supposed indefensibility of the 1967 borders. Bennett’s video means something, especially when taken within a larger context.
And what is that larger context? The last year has seen an increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank as well as a marked rise in the demolition of Palestinian and Bedouin structures in the same area. According to Israel Hayom, the settler population has grown 4.5 percent this year, passing the 350,000 mark. Over 15,500 Israeli citizens moved beyond the Green Line in the last year, making 2011 a record-breaking year of settlement growth.
At the same time that Israeli settlements are expanding unchecked, the state is putting the Palestinians and Bedouins who live in Area C under extreme, unrelenting pressure, as exemplified by this week’s report by Haaretz that Defense Minister Barak has ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages to make way for IDF training.
Demolitions of homes and structures in 2012 have seen an increase. According to a source at the United Nations, between January 1 and April 27 of 2011, 352 Palestinian and Bedouin were forcibly displaced from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The same period of 2012 saw “at least 487” people lose their homes.
It’s a one-two punch intended to increase the Jewish population in the West Bank as much as possible and deplete the Palestinian population as much as possible to ready the area for annexation. Susya, a Palestinian village that is under threat of demolition, is an example of how this works. The village has been destroyed numerous times since the Jewish settlement of Susya was built there in 1983, despite the documents proving it belongs to Palestinians and the fact that this small community has no where else to go.
Israeli pressure on the Palestinian and Bedouin residents of Area C has resulted in a drop in the Arab population in the same area.
And then there’s the Levy Committee Report, which denies that there is an occupation and, according to some observers, lays the legal groundwork (at least in the mind of the Israeli government) for a unilateral annexation of Area C.
It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.