By: Firas Taweel
Zionist settlements are turning into the main architectural landscape throughout the West Bank
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Since 1967, the Israeli occupation has built hundreds of settlements, currently inhabited by 700,000 settlers, East Jerusalem settlers included. This happens despite the United Nations’ strong condemnation, noting that these actions are in complete contradiction to all relevant UN resolutions.
The measures and laws imposed by the occupation in the occupied territory gradually lead to the conclusion that the trajectory is towards full annexation of the West Bank, or parts of it that include the settlements. Such a finding regarding the need to accelerate the annexation, according to the Palestinian Centre for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat), is sustained by the policy of the right-wing alliance ruling in Israel, especially after the recent election winning led by Netanyahu. This is accompanied by the Palestinian division, Washington's absolute support for Israel, the weakness of the Arab position, and the preoccupation of most Arab countries with their internal problems, in addition to the recent rapprochement between Israel and some of the Gulf States.
Political and Economic Implications
The official annexation, in practice, means cancelling the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state and reducing the Palestinians' political aspirations, due to the shrinking of the available land, the disruption of geographical connection and the transformation of the West Bank into several Bantustans with strict separation measures. The results, according to Masarat, will increase the internal pressure on the Palestinian Authority, whom will dissolve itself, be it voluntarily or due to the populations’ pressure, because of its inability to confront and influence.
Exercising sovereignty over the settlements only will support allegations of Apartheid, as there will be two separate regimes and set of laws, unjust for the Palestinians in comparison with the settlers. This will lead to a total disconnection in the relationship with the Palestinian Authority, as the Israeli army will expand its activities deep into the Palestinian areas to prevent what it may perceive as security threats, and the possible confrontations with the Palestinians.
On an international level, such an action will be seen as a sabotaging the international efforts to implement the two-state solution, which enjoys an almost international unanimity. The international society and will hold Israel responsible for prolonging the conflict, in flagrant violation of the international law.
As for the Arab regional level, annexing can have impacts on the peace with Egypt and Jordan, and theoretically impede rapprochement with other Arab countries, or at least it will make it more difficult for the Arab governments to pass it by their people.
"Settlements are an integral part of the Zionist project," says Abdel Rahman Tamimi, Director General of the Palestinian Hydrology Group. He adds, "we should not be surprised by Israeli intentions to annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley". To him, what is astonishing is the Palestinian surprise of the annexation, as the occupation has been embarking on with the annexation projects since years.
As for the implications of the annexation, Tamimi believes that the West Bank will become disconnected islands; with the settlement being the key ruler of the Palestinian geography. The Palestinians will become customers of Israeli companies in the fields of water and energy, rather than being citizens. He continues: "the Palestinian economy, a sizable part of which depends mostly on agriculture, will be finished because agricultural areas and water will be under the occupation control, especially in the Jordan Valley. This, of course, will significantly increase the number of settlers in the Jordan Valley in the coming years because the area is large. In addition, there will be a total isolation of Jerusalem, where the Palestinians will be treated as residents rather than as citizens".
Regarding water, Tamimi says it will be allocated for agriculture in settlements and will be supplied to the Palestinians only by purchasing from Israeli desalination plants. As for the solution, Tamimi believes that confrontation must be through returning to the root of the problem, which is the land, its resources, and the need to find a solution for it.
Ways of Confrontation
The occupation’s full control on the Palestinian land, thus the consequence of making the Palestinian economy dependant on the Israeli, opens the door to solutions available to Palestinians. In fact, solutions seem to be available, but they require will, confrontation, and stamina.
In this regard, George Kurzom, Editor-in-chief of Afaq Environmental Magazine, presented a research paper at an international conference on Sustainable Development in the Context of Conflicts and Crises, held at Birzeit University on 23-24 April 2019, titled “The Flourishing of Colonial Agriculture and the Defeat of the Palestinian Agriculture, What Can be done?”. The paper revolved around several axes, including Palestinians’ confrontation means, bearing in mind the reality imposed by the occupying power on the ground. To that end, Kurzom explains: "with regard to the catastrophic national production-political reality, where the occupation imposes severe restrictions on the “development” of the agriculture and the economy in the occupied Palestinian territory in 1967, speaking of “sustainable development” thus becomes futile jabber”.
And he continues: “Therefore, the sound logic of a people under occupation necessitates encouraging domestic agro production, one that is diverse, self-sufficient, and chemical-detergency-free. It also calls for maximizing and strengthening agricultural holdings that produce enough to cover their household consumption. It’s worth mentioning that 71% of the Palestinian holdings, albeit fewness, used in 2011 most of its produce for household use; with 110,000 rural households relying on agriculture as a major or secondary source of income. Given that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are relatively self-sufficient in some varieties of vegetables (figs, grapes, poultry meat, eggs, and honey) then the core of our resistance production plans must be based on strengthening the approach to self-sufficiency in all basic and strategic food and agricultural commodities: field crops, grains, fodder, vegetables, fruits, and animal produce”.
“In contrast with our resistant production handicap and our food dependency on the occupier, the occupying state (Israel) produces most of the food it consumes; let alone the cultivated areas in the West Bank settlements that exceed 100,000 dunums, most of which plant irrigated crops”.
“It is imperative to challenge the strict-imposed on land, water and marketing, by encouraging and revitalizing diverse environmental agricultural production that is characterized by low production inputs (including water), low cost, integration with other sectors, high level of production outputs recyclability, higher capital accumulation, and high average yield (ton cubic meter per dunum, measured by summing the totals of various and overlapping produce of one dunum, as opposed to chemical mono-cropping yield, which is calculated based on one or two kinds of produce). Understanding this, one realizes that the average yield in the occupied Palestinian territory in 1967 was much higher of that of today’s. The current Palestinian average yield is half of that in Jordan, and as low as 43 per cent of the Israeli’s. This happens despite the comparable natural and climatic environments. What is even more striking is the wider gap between West Bank’s average yield, and that of Gaza.
Of course, the occupation’s practices and policies in terms of looting of resources and water, and destructing the agricultural infrastructure, are not the only reasons behind the present Palestinian agriculture lag. There are also important subjective factors for this underdevelopment: our lack of a national production policy based on local production inputs and encourages people to work in agriculture and diversify production that meets, first and foremost, local needs. As well as organizational, administrative, and technical factors that can be controlled by Palestinians, including patterns and techniques of agriculture, seeds, water recycling, and production outputs”.
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh
Edited by: Carol Khoury