These are the abbreviated reference to gradations of Israeli and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) jurisdictions in the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as defined in the interim agreements signed by the two parties since 1993. The Oslo Interim process created three spheres of jurisdiction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, defined as follows:
- A. Closed Palestinian jurisdiction (Area A): In these lands, the Palestinian Authority has full effective and theoretical (de facto and de jure) jurisdiction. Israeli troops and military withdrew fully until late 2000, during the Second Intifadha, when they besieged the territories again. Until then, Israel formally did not exercise jurisdiction over this area, except through reoccupation or Palestinian consent. Today, these areas remain under Israel`s control, and several areas are under occasional Israeli military siege.
- B. Over-riding Israeli jurisdiction. In those areas, the Palestinian National Authority holds partial personal, functional and geographical jurisdiction, as Israel retained over-riding security jurisdiction through activities of Israel’s troops and the Israeli Military Government. The over-riding jurisdiction encompasses all components and actions that form clear violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as house demolitions, for example, occur in those areas, in particular, with the Israeli authorities’ full resolve and jurisdiction. This area forms approximately 10% of the West Bank and is inhabited by approximately 20% of the Palestinian population.
C. Where Israel has held functional, geographical and personal jurisdiction, and the Palestinian Authority has claimed personal jurisdiction, awaiting withdrawal of Israeli troops and Military Government. The size of this area is undefined; it is open to speculation by both sides, with the continuation of supreme Israeli jurisdiction as the occupying power along with jurisdictional category “A” (total Israeli jurisdiction). Over 60 per cent of the West Bank is considered Area C, where Israel retains near exclusive control, including over law enforcement, planning and construction.
Most of Area C has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settler colonies or the Israeli military, at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population of some 300,000. This impedes the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods in Palestinian communities, and has significant consequences for the entire West Bank population. Israeli Military Government authorities regularly serve demolition orders against structures built without Israeli-issued permits, creating chronic losses, costs and damage, uncertainty and threat, and encouraging Palestinian inhabitants to leave. Where the orders are implemented, they have resulted in displacement and disruption of livelihoods, the entrenchment of poverty and increased aid dependency. The humanitarian community has faced a multiple difficulties in providing aid in Area C, including the demolition and confiscation of assistance by the Israeli authorities.
Israel has ceased to respect many areas and dimensions of Palestinian Authority jurisdiction since its reinvasion of those zones since 2002. After the Israel Prime Minister announced the formal annexation of parts of the West Bank in 2019, the Palestinian President also declared the PNA’s non recognition of these gradations, declaring the State of Palestine’s full jurisdiction over all of the West Bank (as Area A). Nonetheless, the international community continues to refer to these zones by their alphabetic categories, leaving much ambiguity as to their official status.