In the heart of the West Bank, Ariel has, according to its inhabitants, the shape of a « gros hot-dog ». Built on the “Death hill”, as the Palestinians had nicknamed it because of its aridity, the colony is today a flourishing village of 20,000 souls. A « hub » whose services have nothing to envy to Israeli cities. There is a theater, a university and an industrial area where the majority of the employees are Palestinian.
→ READ. Benjamin Netanyahu still wants to annex part of the West Bank
We are, however, in the middle of the Occupied Territories, in one of these “Settlements-cities” directly related to Israel. Ariel is said to be « ineradicable »in other words too important to imagine the evacuation, even in the hypothesis – become unrealistic – of a disengagement from the settlements of the West Bank, where currently live nearly 430,000 Israelis.
An idea supported by the plan presented in late January by US President Donald Trump. According to him, Ariel would effectively become an Israeli extension of an expanding Hebrew state, alongside a very hypothetical Palestinian state with the air of Swiss cheese and which – even in this form – repels the settlers.
Possible announcement on July 1
« Donald Trump’s plan is good, but creating a Palestinian state would be a danger to Israel, ” Judge Bobby Brown, deputy president of Ariel University, 90% of the 15,000 students from Israel. “With the Palestinian Authority, their police have become a veritable army. So even if this state were demilitarized, there will still be the temptation to go further. »
→ DEBATE. Will Israel dare to annex parts of the West Bank?
For weeks, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has kept repeating: from 1is July, Israel intends to annex up to 30% of the West Bank. What land is it, and according to what calendar? The blur remains total. One of the options mentioned concerns Ariel, Maale Adoumim and the Goush Etzion block, near Jerusalem: that of an annexation « a minima », still including 77% of the settlers, according to the Washington Institute, and less than 10% of the West Bank.
However, the subject which occupies the minds here is elsewhere. In his grocery store, Shlomo Dishi is skeptical: “Going under Israeli sovereignty is just a status. It is not going to change our lives. » Living in Ariel for thirty-two years, he claims to have come for economic rather than ideological considerations. “The state offered us the land, all that remained was to build. Prices have doubled since then, I made a good investment. “
“What they want is to eat, not to vote”
If annexed, what will happen to the Palestinians who live nearby? “They too want the application of sovereignty”, says the grocer. Although Benjamin Netanyahu has already announced that no Palestinian will have Israeli nationality, Shlomo Dishi has the solution: “We can give them all the rights except the right to vote. What they want is to eat, not to vote! »
Elad Metsuyanim, Executive Director of the Ariel Development Fund, said the annexation would be just a simple matter “Application of Israeli law » on land where many Israelis already live. “We’re just fixing the error of 1967 (the Six Day War, note), when we took the land without directly applying sovereignty “, he believes.
He is also inexhaustible on Ariel and his « good air “, where we come from “For the quality of life in Tel Aviv, without traffic jams and with more space”. In ten years, he hopes, the colony, today populated 85% by laymen who arrive half from former countries of the USSR, will have 100,000 inhabitants. « The annexation will allow us to build more easily. We still have plenty of land available ”, he assures.
→ EXPLANATION. Israel-Palestine: a one-way “peace plan”
At the exit of the colony, a falafel stand and a small supermarket catch the eye. Between residents of Ariel and workers on lunch break, they speak Hebrew and Arabic. But the managers are Palestinian. What do they think of annexation? “We don’t do politics here, only trade. “
The discussed status of “zone C”
– In the 1990s, the Oslo Accords divide the West Bank into three main areas, labeled A, B and C.
– If the first two (40% of the territory) are mainly under Palestinian control, Zone C (60%) is under Israeli military and civilian control, but with the idea, at the signing of Oslo, of a transfer to the Palestinians in a final peace agreement.
– From Wednesday 1is July the Israeli government must present its strategy to implement the “Trump plan”. This provides for a 50/50 division of this area C, on which 450,000 Israeli settlers now live – three times more than when the Oslo Accords were signed – and 300,000 Palestinians.