Nabi Samwil, West Bank — In Nabi Samwil, a West Bank village of 250 residents just north of Jerusalem, elementary school principal Khalil Abu Arqoub must choose daily between heeding the orders of Israeli military administrators and upholding the well-being of his pupils.
As part of Israel’s stringent building restrictions in this area, the toilet of the Nabi Samwil Mixed Basic School, which he directs, has a demolition order against it.
So does the wire fence the school erected to separate the children’s play area from cars traversing the badly potholed road from the Tomb of Samuel holy site.
“Where will the pupils go for their needs?” Abu Arqoub asked. “Are there people today who do it outside, on the mountain?”
It’s the kind of Palestinian hardship many Israelis dismiss or minimize, citing the role their own security concerns have played in actions taken by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank. Indeed, for all the difficulties that Abu Arqoub and other Palestinians face directly from Israel’s military, the number of those subject to such building restrictions is actually quite small: a mere 56,000 to 150,000 (depending on varied estimates) out of a total West Bank Palestinian population of 2.5 million.
These are the Palestinians of Area C — a sector of the West Bank designated under the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as being under Israel’s exclusive military and civilian rule. Under the accords, both sides agreed Israel’s rule would continue in this part of the West Bank pending resolution of the overall territory’s final status in bilateral negotiations. But these negotiations have been frozen for years, with each side blaming the other for this failure.
The number of Palestinians living in Area C may be small, but the area they live in constitutes 62% of the total West Bank and includes its most fertile and resource-rich land. No less significantly, this section of the West Bank encompasses all of Israel’s Jewish settlements. And lately, voices on the right that may be part of Israel’s next ruling coalition are calling for the outright, unilateral annexation of this West Bank sector.’