Naftali Bennett’s declaration of national parks in the West Bank is another step toward annulling the Oslo Accords

The implications: Israeli takeover of new territory in the West Bank ■ Violating the rights of Palestinians who live in these territories ■ Expanding tourism in West Bank territory and effectively erasing the Green Line

On Wednesday, Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett announced that he has authorized the declaration of new national parks, along with the expansion of existing parks, in the West Bank. If this is indeed a practical step, and not simply an election-related pronouncement, it entails another dramatic step toward annulling the Oslo Accords.

The Oslo Accords (Oslo B) signed in 1995, determined that no new settlements would be established, and no nature reserves or national parks would be designated. The last designation took place in September 1995 and pertained to 3,000 dunams in Nabi Samuel, north of Jerusalem.

Since the Oslo Accords were signed, Israel has been careful not to designate new national parks. Even when it has established parks, such as Tel Rumeida in Hebron, or Mount Gerizim in Nablus, they were deemed public gathering sites by the Civil Administration, which does not necessitate changing their statutory status.

National parks and nature reserves in Area C of the West Bank are managed by the Civil Administration and referred to as “parks”. Their total area spans approximately 500,000 dunams and constitutes roughly 14.5% of Area C. Palestinians’ rights are violated in these territories through various means. In the Ein Prat Nature Reserve, for example, landowners cannot cultivate their land as their access is restricted. In Herodion National Park and Nabi Samuel, residents can neither construct nor renovate their homes.

Beyond increasing Israeli control over these territories in recent years, we have witnessed growing tourism beyond the Green Line, thanks to the tailwind generated by government bodies seeking to erase public consciousness of the Green Line. The potential increase in tourism in national parks and nature reserves will further intensify this trend.

Sites containing antiquities further reinforce historic narratives that present these territories as an inseparable part of Israeli identity and heritage. It is no surprise that along with the designation of nature reserves, Bennett’s announcement also included the expansion of the archaeological parks of Petza’el, Alexandrium, and Qumran.

Emek Shaveh’s publication on national parks in Israel and the West Bank