on 11 March 2014.
Since 1967, Israel has colonized the oPt by systematically transferring parts of its Jewish civilian population into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in violation of international law. Today, more than half a million Israeli settlers, including over 190,000 in and around East Jerusalem, live in settlements established on land illegally seized from us in the oPt. These settlements range in size from nascent settlements or “outposts,” consisting of a few trailers, to entire towns of tens of thousands of settlers.
The aim and effect of Israel’s settlement enterprise has been to alter the oPt’s status, both physically and demographically, so as to prevent its return to us. The construction of Israeli settlements is designed to illegally confiscate our land and natural resources while confining our population to unsustainable, ever-shrinking enclaves and severing East Jerusalem from the rest of the oPt. By limiting the territorial contiguity and economic viability of the oPt, Israeli settlements pose the single greatest threat to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and hence, to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Colonizing the oPt
The Israeli government has adopted a number of discriminatory measures aimed at bolstering its settlement enterprise. Israelis are lured to settlements through a variety of Israeli-government incentives, including housing subsidies, income tax reductions, disproportionate budget allocations and business grants. Contrary to Israel’s claim of “natural growth,” these incentives have led to the rapid growth rate in the settler population – in some cases, reaching three to four times that of the rate of growth in Israel.
Israel’s settlements also benefit from massive Israeli investment in roads and other infrastructure. Settler roads, including so-called ‘bypass’ roads, connect settlements to each other and to Israel. For our population, who is generally restricted and in some cases prohibited from using them, these roads create a grid of physical barriers that crisscross the entire West Bank.
Israel enforces movement restrictions on us – or a ‘closure regime’ – through the erection of hundreds of military checkpoints and roadblocks. Parallel to securing virtually unchecked freedom of movement and access for Israeli settlers, this physical restriction scheme severely restricts our movement and access, isolates our communities, preventing their expansion, restricts our access to farmlands and natural resources and destroys our territorial contiguity.
The presence of Israeli settlements and settlers is a primary source of instability, resentment and a historically proven trigger to clashes between our indigenous population and the armed settlers. In addition to the socioeconomic and humanitarian damage caused by the settlements, Israeli settlers, and the soldiers charged with protecting them, routinely subject our population to attacks, humiliation and harassment.
The Wall: Another Land Grab
In the summer of 2002, Israel began constructing its Wall in the oPt. Though Israel claims that the Wall was erected for security purposes, it forms an integral component of Israel’s settlement infrastructure. The Wall encircles and snakes through the West Bank incorporating a majority of Israeli settlements and settlers on the “Israeli” side of the Wall while seizing large tracts of our territory for the expansion of future settlements. In so doing, the Wall separates us from our lands, the source of our livelihood; prevents access to education and social services; and deprives us from our natural resources, especially water. The Wall is nearly complete but for small stretches halted due to legal action in the courts. The areas taken for the Wall, combined with settlement-controlled areas east of the Wall and in the Jordan Valley, will leave us with only 54 percent of the West Bank.
Given that the Wall has been routed around existing illegal settlements and their planned expansion areas, the Wall is clearly a land grab and not a security measure. Indeed, the Wall does not separate the state of Israel from our territory but rather separates Palestinians from Palestinians.
Israel’s Territorial Ambitions: Then and Now
In 1967, Yigal Allon, Israel’s then Deputy Prime Minister and later its Foreign Minister, proposed maintaining Israeli control over the Jordan Valley of the West Bank and an expanded east-west corridor running through Jerusalem to the Jordan River. The remaining areas of the West Bank were to be “returned” to Jordan. The “Allon Plan” – as it became known – had a significant impact on Israeli settlement policy. A comparison between the Allon Plan map and the current situation on the ground demonstrates clearly the continuity of Israel’s territorial ambitions in the West Bank since 1967.
- Key Facts
While the total built-up area of all the settlements is 1.2 percent of the West Bank, over 40 percent of the West Bank is under the control of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure such as settler bypass roads, the Wall, checkpoints, and military bases.
In the same year that Israel evacuated its 8,200 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, its settler population in the West Bank increased by some 12,000 settlers.
Incentives offered by the Israeli government have succeeded in luring thousands of Israeli settlers to the oPt. According to a poll conducted by the Israeli organization Peace Now, 77 percent of surveyed settlers live in the oPt for “quality of life” reasons and not for religious or national security reasons. Accordingly, we can assume that with similar incentives, these settlers could be persuaded to evacuate the oPt.
Israeli settlers use 7 times the amount of water that Palestinians use, per capita.
Though Israel claims that the Wall is being built for security reasons, it actually serves to make defense of its territory more difficult: the total length of the Wall (as approved on 30 April 2006) is 711 km. This is more than twice the 320 km length of the 1967 border.
- International Law
Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, ratified by Israel in 1951, states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
In its July 9, 2004, Advisory Opinion on the Wall, the International Court of Justice held that the Wall, along with settlements, violates international law. It called upon Israel to halt its construction, to dismantle portions already built, and to provide reparations to Palestinians for damages it has caused.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998 (Article 8(b)(viii)) defines “the transfer directly or indirectly by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as a War Crime indictable by the International Criminal Court.
United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 465 (1980): “Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in [the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem] constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention… and a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” The resolution calls on Israel to “dismantle the existing settlements.”
- Our Position
In addition to being illegal, Israeli settlements in the oPt pose the single greatest threat to a two-state solution, and hence, to a just and lasting peace. Settlements, their infrastructure and associated areas of Israeli control grossly reduce the amount and quality of land remaining for our future state and severely undermine its territorial integrity. Under the “land for peace” formula contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and upon which the peace process is based, Israel is to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 in exchange for full peace and recognition from its neighbors.
Thus, Israel must undo its settlement enterprise and repair any damage caused by its illegal colonization of our territory. Israel’s unilateral 2005 Gaza ‘disengagement’ demonstrated that Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ are not permanent and, with sufficient political will, can be removed far more rapidly than they were established. One method to evacuate settlements peacefully would be for Israel to eliminate all economic and other incentives, both for the settlements and the settlers, and to start providing comparable or better incentives that would act to encourage existing settlers to move back to Israel.
Until a final agreement is reached, however, a genuine and comprehensive settlement freeze is the only way to minimize further prejudice to future negotiations. The international community has repeatedly called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity. The basic elements of such a freeze are: 1) ending all settlement-related construction; 2) eliminating all subsidies and economic incentives for settlements and settlers; 3) ending all planning for settlements; 4) ceasing all land confiscations, home demolitions and other property destruction; and 5) ending the migration of settlers to the oPt.