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Area C in British Parliamentary Debate

Area C in British Parliamentary Debate

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Yesterday's British parliamentary debate about Area C.
Yesterday's British parliamentary debate about Area C.

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Published by: Angela Godfrey-Goldstein on Jul 05, 2012
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West Bank (Area C)2.30 pmMr Frank Doran (Aberdeen North) (Lab):
I am grateful for the opportunityto speak on the important issue of Area C in Palestine. Following the Osloagreement in 1995, the occupied Palestinian territories were divided into threeareas: Area A, about 18% of the west bank, contains most of the mainPalestinian settlements and is under full Palestinian civil and security control;Area B, roughly 22% of the west bank, is under Palestinian civil control andIsraeli security control; and Area C, on which I want to concentrate, makes upthe other 60% of the west bank and is under complete Israeli civil and securitycontrol. The Oslo agreement as concerned with the west bank was intended to beinterim and to last for only five years. The lands should have been handed overgradually to Palestinian control, but that has never happened.
Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab):
I apologise to my hon.Friend for the fact that I cannot stay for the whole debate. Does he agree thatArea C would, and does, make up the backbone of any future Palestinian state? The failure of the Oslo process to follow its proper track therefore jeopardisesthe whole future of the two-state solution. Will he ask for the Minister’s viewson that?
Mr Doran:
I thank the right hon. Lady for her intervention—I always thank theright hon. Lady, and I always give way to her. The Minister has heard herquestion, and I am sure that he will respond. Of course, I agree that thesolution, if there is one, to the problems of Area C is crucial to the wholesettlement of a particularly difficult issue.Israel, as an occupying state, has clear and unambiguous responsibilities to thePalestinian people in Area C, including for the safety and welfare of civiliansliving in the occupied territory. It has no sovereignty over Area C or any otherpart of the west bank. I want to concentrate on Area C and the way in whichthe Israeli authorities have met their obligations under international law.In May this year, I had the opportunity to visit Palestine for the first time, on atrip with some colleagues organised by the Britain-Palestine all-partyparliamentary group and CAABU, the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. One of the first things I noticed travelling through thewest bank, as a newcomer, is the enormous amount of new development. Thehills are full of new housing complexes, but in Area C those developments donot belong to the indigenous population—they have all been developed by theoccupying force, Israel, and are therefore illegal. The scale is staggering.According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, there are 124formally recognised settlements in the west bank, not including East Jerusalem,and about 100 informal settlements—outposts—that are illegal under Israelilaw. As a result of the restricted road network—restricted for Palestinians, atleast—the settlements dominate more than 40% of the west bank. There are310,000 settlers now living in Area C, where
4 July 2012 : Column 286WH
the rate of population growth is much higher than in any other part of thecountry, with an increase of 4.75% per year. The Israeli Government not only condone illegal development but encourage it,providing incentives, subsidies and funding for housing, education andinfrastructure, including special roads and water connections. According to aPeace Now report from 2006, 40% of the land—or 3,400 buildings—on whichsettlements have been built in Area C is privately owned by Palestinians.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con):
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that,at most, about 5% of the west bank consists of settlements, and most of themare in settlement blocks? Does he not accept that the vast majority of thesettlements are along the peace line and that, to get to peace, land swaps willbe required? Most of those settlements are more than likely to come into Israelanyway.
Mr Doran:
That does not alter the facts on the ground. Owing to the roadnetworks, the various infrastructure around the settlements and the inability of Palestinians to go into that territory without a permit from the Israeliauthorities, 40% of the land is effectively taken up by the settlements.
Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con):
I congratulate thehon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. I, too, have recentlyreturned from a visit to the region. Someone remarked that because of theIsraeli settlements the whole of Area C looks similar to a Swiss cheese, which isa very good description. That lack of a contiguous, sustainable two-statesolution in the area is making peace very difficult to achieve.
Mr Doran:
I agree with the hon. Lady. There are less light words than Swisscheese for what is happening; it is very serious and damaging to any potentialsolution. She is absolutely right.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):
I refer the Chamber to mydeclaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.I take the issue of settlements seriously, but listening closely to the hon.Gentleman, I simply cannot understand his repeated reference to settlementstaking up 40% of the west bank. I have the United Nations “HumanitarianAtlas”, and there is simply no way that the Israeli settlements amount toanywhere near 40% of the west bank. May I ask him to ensure that he isquoting a correct figure?
Mr Doran:
I stand by the figure. I am not suggesting that 40% is built on; thatis not the issue. I am talking about the area of land that is restricted withregard to Palestinians. It includes the road network. The Swiss cheese effectwas mentioned by the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant). There are large areas to which the Palestinian community is denied access. That calculation is made, as I said, in a 2006 report by an Israeli human rightsorganisation. I want to make progress now, because the hon. Member forKettering (Mr Hollobone) will have his opportunity to speak later.
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On my visit to the west bank, I saw numerous examples of how the Israeli civilAdministration restrict any kind of development by Palestinians. Around 70% of 
Area C, or 44% of the west bank, is effectively off limits to Palestinianconstruction—the hon. Member for Kettering made me nervous of getting intosuch statistics, but I have to stick by them—and is designated for exclusive useby Israeli settlements and the Israeli military, or is taken up by nature reservesor the barrier buffer zone. In the remaining 30% of Area C, a range of restrictions makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to be grantedpermission for development. The most frequent obstacle to Palestinian development is the requirement onthe applicant to prove that he or she owns or has the right to use the land, butmost land in the west bank is not registered, so the owners must go through acomplex system involving tax and inheritance documents. The second groundfor the rejection of most Palestinian permit applications is the requirement thatthe proposed building must be in conformity with an approved planningscheme that is detailed enough to enable building permits to be used.Palestinian villages, however, lack sufficiently detailed plans. The outdatedplans that do exist are interpreted restrictively by the Israeli civil authority. Inpractice, only about 1% of Area C is available for the construction of newproperties, and most of that is already built up.
Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab):
I congratulate my hon. Friend onsecuring this important debate. Does he share my concern that among thebuildings demolished are structures funded by the European Union, such asschools? I visited the occupied territories in the west bank a year ago, as partof a delegation, and saw a school that had been built with funding from anItalian charity, but that had been subject to a demolition notice.
Mr Doran:
We were obviously on the same visit, because I will mention thatparticular project later. Under the restrictive laws and regulations, manyPalestinian structures, including homes, schools, water systems and farminginfrastructure, are treated as illegal and are therefore subject to demolitionorders.In 2011, nearly 1,100 Palestinians, half of them children, were displacedthrough 222 house demolitions—an 80% increase on the number of peopledisplaced in 2010—and 4,200 people were affected by the destruction of structures necessary to their livelihoods, such as water storage and agriculturalfacilities. In total, 622 Palestinian structures were destroyed, includingmosques and classrooms. At the end of 2011, there were more than 3,000outstanding demolition orders. Those figures included 18 schools.So far this year, 371 Palestinian structures have been demolished on the westbank, 124 of which were homes, and 600 people have been displaced so farthis year. That is a significant and troubling increase in the weekly average,from 21 people a week displaced in 2011, to 24 a week this year. Of thestructures demolished since the start of 2000—this relates to the point madeby my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris)—60 wereEU-funded structures, and 110 are at risk of demolition. Will the Minister tell usthe total cost of those demolished EU projects, and whether he
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