Making Sense of ‘West Bank,’ ‘Judea and Samaria’ and areas ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’

How Did it Get This Way?

(Map of UN Partition Plan)

In November 1947 the United Nations voted to split the ‘Palestine Mandate,’ the area between the Jordan river and the Mediteranean sea, into two states, an Arab state and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem remaining an ‘international’ city under UN auspices. The directorate (proto parliament) of the Jewish population accepted the partition plan. The Palestinian Arab population, and all the neighboring countries rejected the plan outright and prepared to invade. At the end of hostilities in 1949, the area (a kidney shaped piece of the land of Israel), with the Old City of Jerusalem at its heart, was in the hands of Jordan. Because Jordan was now a state which spanned both sides of the Jordan river, the Hashemite rulers of that country began to refer to the area as the ‘West Bank’ of the Jordan, with the other part of the country being on the ‘East Bank.’ This was a new term which replaced the historical terms for the area. The ancient names for the area in question are, ‘Canaan,’ the ‘Land of Israel,’ then ‘Judea and Samaria,’ and still later after the Bar Kochva revolt it was renamed ‘Palestina’ by the Roman emperor Hadrian. From here on I will refer to these areas by their traditional Jewish names as ‘Judea and Samaria.’

(Map of Israel, light blue, from 1949-1967)

From 1949 until June 1967 this area remained in the hands of Jordan. In 1967 Israel conquered Judea and Samaria as well as the Sinai peninsula, the Gaza strip and the Golan heights in a war of self defense. After 2,000 years of exhile, the Jewish people once again held sovereignty over the holy places in Jerusalem, Hebron, Shechem (AKA Nablus), Bethlehem, Beit El, and other sites in the biblical heartland.

Following an Arab uprising known as the ‘First Intifada,’ Israel entered into negotiations with the PLO terror organization to create some sort of state or autonomous area in Judea and Samaria ruled by a quasi government known as the Palestinian Authority, or PA for short. This organization was created and recognized under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

In September 1995 Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the Oslo II agreement, dividing Judea and Samaria into three areas, areas ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C.’ The original intent was for this arrangement to be temporary, allowing the PA to build institutions, learn how to govern, and build trust with Israel, eventually leading to a final deal.

Alphabet Soup: Breaking down areas ‘A,’ ‘B,’ and ‘C’

Area ‘A’ (beige) is completely ruled by the PA and includes all the major Arab population centers in Judea and Samaria, such as Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Shechem. The police are PA police. The garbage trucks are PA garbage trucks. Entrance to area ‘A’ is illegal for Israeli citizens, though in practice this restriction is only for Israeli Jews as Israeli non-Jews come and go freely.

Area ‘B’ (pink) is mostly adjacent to areas ‘A’ and includes Arab population but for security reasons Israel insisted on maintaining a military presence for the time being. So these areas are administratively split between PA ‘civilian control’ over taxes, streets, garbage trucks, and the like, and Israeli ‘security control,’ which means that law and order as well as anti-terror operations are conducted freely by the IDF in these areas.

Area ‘C’ (white) is under complete Israeli control. This includes all the Jewish settlements and the roads which access them. These roads are also used freely by the Arab populations who live in areas ‘A’ and ‘B.’

After Oslo II was signed this separation was implemented. But because Yasser Arafat never intended to make peace with Israel, preferring to use the areas under his control as forward bases to destroy the Jewish state, the ‘Peace Process,’ never moved forward from this stage. Instead the situation descended into a terror war culminating in the ‘Second Intifada.’ As so often happens in Israel, this temporary arrangement has become the seemingly permanent status quo. The ‘green line’ on this map, which marks the original border between Israel and Jordan has become increasingly irrelevant as more and more Jews have moved into the historic heartland of the Jewish people, today numbering around half a million souls, and the ‘separation barrier’ built to help prevent terrorist attacks following years of terrorist attacks reflects an attempt to keep as much Jewish population as possible on the ‘Israeli’ side. This is the red line on the map above.

Of course, it’s one thing to read a description or see these areas on a map. Its quite another to see them with your own eyes. For that, get in touch with me HERE. I’ll be happy to show you around!

eitan standing in front of dessert view smiling

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