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Nabi Samwil, West Bank — Those advocating this move notably include Israel’s minister of public diplomacy, Yuli Edelstein, who is a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, and his fellow party member Ze’ev Elkin, a top Likud Knesset member.
The head of Israel’s Jewish Home party, which will be the third largest in Israel’s recently elected parliament, is also urging that Israel take this step. Like many others, Naftali Bennett, the party chief, is attracted by the prospect of absorbing the lion’s share of the West Bank’s land and a minimum number of its Palestinian residents.
“There are 350,000 Israelis living in Area C and only 50,000 Arabs,” he told Israel’s Ynet news website in February 2012. “They will become full-fledged Israeli citizens and according to this plan no one — neither a Jew nor an Arab — would be driven out of his home.”
But right now, charge critics, Palestinians are, indeed, being driven out of their homes in Area C as the possibility of Israeli annexation emerges.
A 2011 research report conducted by the European Union noted that in 1967 between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians lived in the Jordan Valley, most of which is in Area C. But demolition of Palestinian homes and prevention of new buildings has seen the number drop to 56,000, the report said. In a similar period, it added, the Jewish population in Area C has grown from 1,200 to 310,000.
In many ways, the challenges confronting the residents of this tiny village exemplify the issues at stake.
The IDF order to demolish the Nabi Samwil school’s toilet is part of a broader building ban it is enforcing, based on a 1997 designation of the area in which the village sits as a national park. Israel views all of the sites in which Nabi Samwil’s Palestinians live as illegal structures.
That designation contrasts with the situation just across the road in the Har Shmuel Jewish settlement, where many new villas are under construction as part of the “natural growth” of the community. In Nabi Samwil, as elsewhere in Palestinian villages of Area C, not only is natural growth not allowed, it is actively stymied, according to international and Israeli critics.