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Palestinians want more control over West Bank

Palestinians want more control over West Bank territories occupied by Israel

AP, Saturday 18 Dec 2010
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Children's chairs pulled out of a pile of rubble are all that's left of a schoolhouse that served 17 children of Palestinian herders in this encampment on a wind-swept West Bank plateau.

The school was razed by Israeli troops last week for the third time in six years as Israel asserted control over the area , part of the 62 percent of the West Bank that remains exclusively in Israeli hands, much of it set aside for settlements and military zones. The rest, where most Palestinians live are disconnected territorial islands administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says the PA needs to extend its reach to more of the West Bank as part of a plan to get 'Palestine' ready for statehood by fall. The Palestinian timeframe coincides with President Barack Obama's goal to broker an Israeli-Palestinian deal on statehood by September.

With negotiations stuck, however, close attention is being paid to Fayyad's efforts and Israel's continued control of large tracts of the West Bank, which would form the bulk of a future Palestinian state.

Any development in this part of the West Bank , from building the three-room school in Khirbet Tana to paving roads or extending electricity lines, requires Israeli approval which Palestinians and international aid officials say is often either slow to be granted or not given.

The UN's Mideast envoy, Robert Serry, this week told the UN Security Council that "Israel needs to roll back measures of occupation as the Palestinian Authority rolls out the basis for statehood." It's also a money issue. Donor countries support Fayyad's efforts with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They hope that Palestinians will gradually need less foreign aid if the West Bank economy keeps growing.

But that growth rate can only be sustained if the Palestinians can have better access to markets and can expand into the Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank, known as Area C, said Christian Berger, the EU representative in the Palestinian territories.

Israel claims it supports the Palestinian nation-building efforts despite stifling Palestinian development in Area C and fostering the expansion of more than 120 settlements there, now home to nearly 300,000 Israelis as the Palestinians say.

In the past 13 years, nearly 2,800 Palestinian-owned homes, shacks and animal shelters were torn down, the UN
says. In 2010 alone, 339 structures were razed, displacing just over 450 people, half of them children, according to the UN.

Khirbet Tana, the herders' encampment east of the Palestinian city of Nablus, was razed last week because it's in what Israel defines as a military training zone, with potential risk to life.

The Israeli military says Israel's Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the demolition of Khirbet Tana in 2008.

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