Britain’s Minister for the Middle East has called on Israel to transfer power over security in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority.
In response to a question in the House of Commons, Tobias Ellwood MP revealed that the UK Government had urged Israel to relinquish responsibility for security in areas with large Jewish settlements.
Asked this week what discussions Ellwood had had with his Israeli counterpart on maintaining order in the West Bank, he replied that he had “encouraged” the transfer of responsibility in the areas where Israel has full or partial control.
Responsibility for West Bank security is shared between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli security forces. Area C is administered by Israel only, Area B is administered by both and Area A is administered by the PA only.
Asked about security responsibility, Ellwood said: “In my discussions with the Israeli authorities, I have encouraged this area to be transferred from C to B and B to A.” This would mean partial Palestinian control over more than 380,000 Jewish settlers.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “Mr Ellwood’s comments refer to the Oslo Accords which created the zonal areas of A, B and C in the West Bank. The majority of the West Bank continues to be designated Area C by the Israeli authorities, [where] Palestinians have restricted access to local resources, limiting the potential for Palestinian governance and economic development.”
He added: “Oslo envisaged that the division into the areas would be temporary, with responsibility to the Palestinian Authority being incrementally transferred. So the Minister was referring to encouraging this process.”