West Bank

West Bank
State of Palestine
West Bank Palestinian Authority
Palestinian Local Government
in the West Bank
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The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربيةaḍ-Ḍaffah l-Ġarbiyyah, Hebrew: הגדה המערבית‎, HaGadah HaMa'aravit also known as Hebrew: יהודה והשומרוןYehuda ve-Ha'Shomron (Judea and Samaria)[1][2]) of the Jordan River is the landlocked[3] geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The West Bank also contains a significant coastline along the western bank of the Dead Sea. Since 1967, most of the West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation and is referred to as Judea and Samaria Area by Israel. A smaller part of the West Bank is administered by the Israeli civilian authorities as part of Jerusalem District.

For 400 years immediately prior to the First World War, the area now known as the West Bank was under Ottoman rule as part of the province of Syria. At the 1920 San Remo conference, the victorious Allied powers (UK, US, etc.) allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine. Following World War II, United Nations passed the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine which aimed to establish a two-state solution within Palestine. The Resolution designated the territory described as "Samaria and Judea" (now known as the "West Bank") as part of the proposed Arab state, but following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War this area was captured by Trans-Jordan (renamed Jordan in 1949). The name "West Bank" was proposed by the Jordanian authorities to describe the area west of Jordan River. The 1949 Armistice Agreements defined its interim boundary. From 1948 until 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule, and Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to the area until 1988, ceding its territorial claims to the PLO and eventually stripping West Bank Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship.[4][5] Jordan's claim was never formally recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom.[6][7] The West Bank was occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in June, 1967. With the exception of East Jerusalem and the former Israeli-Jordanian no man's land, the West Bank was not annexed by Israel but remained under Israeli military control. Most of the residents are Arabs, although a large number of Israeli settlements have been built in the region since 1967. Close to 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank settlements, annexed East Jerusalem and the former Israeli-Jordanian no man's land areas.[8]

The West Bank has a land area of 5,640 km2 (including East Jerusalem),[9] and 220 km2 water (the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea). Its population is 1,714,845 (June 2010)[10] according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). As of December 2010, 327,750 Israelis live in the 121 officially-recognised settlements in the West Bank, 192,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem and over 20,000 live in settlements in the Golan Heights [11]


Origin of the name

West Bank

The name West Bank, a translation of the Arabic term ad-difa’a al-gharbiya, was coined by the Jordanians after the territory, conquered by Jordan's Arab Legion in 1948, was annexed to Transjordan, forming the new Kingdom of Jordan in 1949–50. The term was chosen to differentiate the "West bank of the River Jordan", namely the newly annexed territory, from the "East Bank" of this river, namely Transjordan[citation needed]. Until that point, the area was generally known [12] by the historic names of its two regions – Judea and Samaria,[13] the term used by Israel today.


The neo-Latin name Cisjordan or Cis-Jordan (literally "on this side of the [River] Jordan") is the usual name for the territory in the Romance languages and Hungarian. The analogous Transjordan has historically been used to designate the region now comprising the state of Jordan which lies on the "other side" of the Jordan River. In English, the name Cisjordan is also occasionally used to designate the entire region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, particularly in the historical context of the British Mandate and earlier times. The use of Cisjordan to refer to the smaller region discussed in this article, while common in scholarly fields including archaeology, is rare in general English usage; the name West Bank is standard usage for this geo-political entity in English and some of the other Germanic languages. For the low-lying area immediately west of the Jordan, the name Jordan Valley is used instead.[citation needed]


Map comparing the borders of the 1947 partition plan and the armistice of 1949.
Borders defined in the UN partition plan of 1947:
  Area assigned to a Jewish state;
    Area assigned to an Arab state;
    Corpus separatum of Jerusalem (neither Jewish nor Arab).

Borders under the armistice of 1949:
    Arab territory from 1949 to 1967;
      Israel in the 1949 armistice lines.

The territory now known as the West Bank was a part of the British Mandate of Palestine entrusted to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations after World War I. The terms of the Mandate called for the creation in Palestine of a Jewish national home without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population of Palestine.[14] The current border of the West Bank was not a dividing line during the Mandate period, but is the armistice line between the forces of the kingdom of Jordan and those of Israel at the close of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

When the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally administered enclave of Jerusalem, a more broad region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State. In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War most of the area assigned to the Arab State was occupied by Jordanian and Iraqi forces. Jordan annexed the West Bank after the war, and the annexation was recognized by the UK.[7] The idea of an independent Palestinian state was not raised by the Arab populations there at the time, due to lack of political representation. King Abdullah of Jordan was crowned King of Jerusalem and granted Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Jordanian citizenship.[15]

During the 1950s, there was a significant influx of Palestinian refugees and violence together with Israeli reprisal raids across the "Green Line".[citation needed]

In May 1967 Egypt ordered out U.N. peacekeeping troops and re-militarized the Sinai peninsula, and commenced an economic blockade of Israel through the straits of Tiran at the same time. Fearing an Egyptian attack, the government of Levi Eshkol attempted to restrict any confrontation to Egypt alone. In particular it did whatever it could to avoid fighting Jordan in a two-front war. However, "carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism", on May 30, 1967 King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed a mutual defense treaty in which the two countries agreed to consider "any armed attack on either state or its forces as an attack on both".[16][17] On June 5, the Israel Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt[18] which began what came to be known as the Six Day War.

Jordan soon began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv.[19] Despite this, Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, "the die was cast".[16] On the evening of June 5 the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted.[20] Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Government House was captured, which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem.[21] On June 6 Dayan encircled the city, but, fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, he ordered his troops not to go in. However, upon hearing that the U.N. was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city.[20] After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on 7 June.

No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. However, when intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river, Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank.[21] Over the next two days, the IDF swiftly captured the rest of the West Bank and blew up the Abdullah and Hussein Bridges over the Jordan, thereby severing the West Bank from the East.[22] According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem's security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.[23]

The Arab League's Khartoum conference in September declared continuing belligerency, and stated the league's principles of "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it".[24] In November 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously adopted, calling for "the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" to be achieved by "the application of both the following principles:" "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" (see semantic dispute) and: "Termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon entered into consultations with the UN Special representative over the implementation of 242.[25] The text did not refer to the PLO or to any Palestinian representative because none was recognized at that time.

Until 1974, Jordan demanded the restoration of its control over the West Bank.[26] In 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."[27][28]


Map of West Bank settlements and closures in January 2006: Yellow = Palestinian urban centers. Light pink = closed military areas or settlement boundary areas or areas isolated by the Israeli West Bank Barrier; dark pink = settlements, outposts or military bases. The black line = route of the Barrier

The 1993 Oslo Accords declared the final status of the West Bank to be subject to a forthcoming settlement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Following these interim accords, Israel withdrew its military rule from some parts of the West Bank, which was divided into three administrative divisions of the Oslo Accords:

Area Control Administration % of WB
% of WB
A Palestinian Palestinian 17% 55%
B Israeli Palestinian 24% 41%
C Israeli Israeli 59% 4%[29]

Area A, 2.7%, full civil control of the Palestinian Authority, comprises Palestinian towns, and some rural areas away from Israeli settlements in the north (between Jenin, Nablus, Tubas, and Tulkarm), the south (around Hebron), and one in the center south of Salfit.[30] Area B, 25.2%, adds other populated rural areas, many closer to the center of the West Bank. Area C contains all the Israeli settlements, roads used to access the settlements, buffer zones (near settlements, roads, strategic areas, and Israel), and almost all of the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert.

Areas A and B are themselves divided among 227 separate areas (199 of which are smaller than 2 square kilometres (1 sq mi)) that are separated from one another by Israeli-controlled Area C. [31] Areas A, B, and C cross the 11 Governorates used as administrative divisions by the Palestinian National Authority, Israel, and the IDF and named after major cities.

According to B'tselem, while the vast majority of the Palestinian population lives in areas A and B, the vacant land available for construction in dozens of villages and towns across the West Bank is situated on the margins of the communities and defined as area C.[32]

An assessment by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in 2007 found that approximately 40% of the West Bank was taken up by Israeli infrastructure. The infrastructure, consisting of settlements, the barrier, military bases and closed military areas, Israeli declared nature reserves and the roads that accompany them is off-limits or tightly controlled to Palestinians.[33]

In June 2011, the Independent Commission for Human Rights published a report whose findings included that the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an “almost systematic campaign” of human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities, with the security forces belonging to the PA and Hamas being responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.[34]


West Bank's population pyramid in 2005

In December 2007, an official Census conducted by the Palestinian Authority found that the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) was 2,345,000.[35][36] However, the World Bank and American-Israeli Demographic Research Group identified a 32% discrepancy between first-grade enrollment statistics documented by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)’ 2007 projections,[37] with questions also raised about the PCBS’ growth assumptions for the period 1997-2003.[38] Several media outlets have suggested that PCBS data inflate the 2007 census figures by 30%, contradicting both the Palestinian Ministry of Education's enrollment data and actual emigration growth documented by Israeli Border Police, which in 2006 observed 25,000 Palestinian Arabs emigrating from Palestinian Authority-controlled territories.[39] These data sets suggest that the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank in 2007 was approximately 1.5 million.

There are over 350,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, as well as around 210,000 living in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. There are also small ethnic groups, such as the Samaritans living in and around Nablus, numbering in the hundreds. Interactions between the two societies have generally declined following the Palestinian First Intifada and Second Intifada, though an economic relationship often exists between adjacent Israeli and Palestinian Arab villages.[citation needed]

As of October 2007, around 23,000 Palestinians in the West Bank work in Israel every day with another 9,200 working in Israeli settlements. In addition, around 10,000 Palestinian traders from the West Bank are allowed to travel every day into Israel.[40]

Approximately 30% of Palestinians living in the West Bank are refugees or descendants of refugees from villages and towns located in what became Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (see Palestinian exodus), 754,263 in June 2008 according to UNRWA statistics.[41][42][43]

Significant population centers

Significant population centers
Center Population
Al-Bireh 38,202[44]
Betar Illit 37,600[45]
Ariel 17,700[45]
Bethlehem 25,266[44]
Hebron (al-Khalil) 163,146[44]
Jericho 18,346[44]
Jenin 39,004[44]
Ma'ale Adummim 33,259[45]
Modi'in Illit 48,600[45]
Nablus 126,132[44]
Qalqilyah 41,739[44]
Ramallah 27,460[44]
Tulkarm 51,300[44]
Yattah 48,672[44]

The most densely populated part of the region is a mountainous spine, running north-south, where the cities of Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Jenin, Bethlehem, Hebron and Yattah are located as well as the Israeli settlements of Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Betar Illit. Ramallah, although relatively mid in population compared to other major cities as Hebron, Nablus and Jenin, serves as an economic and political center for the Palestinians. Jenin in the extreme north and is the capital of north of the West Bank and is on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley. Modi'in Illit, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm are in the low foothills adjacent to the Israeli Coastal Plain, and Jericho and Tubas are situated in the Jordan Valley, north of the Dead Sea.


The population of the West Bank is 75 percent Muslim while 17 percent is Jewish. The remaining 8 percent are Christians and others.[10]

Transportation and communication


Bedouin and his camel on the road to Jericho

The West Bank has 5,147 km (3,198 mi) of roads, all of which are paved.[10]

In response to shootings by Palestinians, some highways, especially those leading to Israeli settlements, were completely inaccessible to cars with Palestinian license plates, while many other roads were restricted only to public transportation and to Palestinians who have special permits from Israeli authorities.[46][47][48] Due to numerous shooting assaults targeting Israeli vehicles, the IDF bars Israelis from using most of the original roads in the West Bank.[citation needed]

At certain times, Israel maintained more than 600 checkpoints or roadblocks in the region.[49] As such, movement restrictions were also placed on main roads traditionally used by Palestinians to travel between cities, and such restrictions are still blamed for poverty and economic depression in the West Bank.[50] Since the beginning of 2005, there has been some amelioration of these restrictions. According to reports, "Israel has made efforts to improve transport contiguity for Palestinians travelling in the West Bank. It has done this by constructing underpasses and bridges (28 of which have been constructed and 16 of which are planned) that link Palestinian areas separated from each other by Israeli settlements and bypass roads"[51] and by removal of checkpoints and physical obstacles, or by not reacting to Palestinian removal or natural erosion of other obstacles. "The impact (of these actions) is most felt by the easing of movement between villages and between villages and the urban centres."[51]

Checkpoint before entering Jericho, 2005

However, some obstacles encircling major Palestinian urban hubs, particularly Nablus and Hebron, have remained. In addition, the IDF prohibits Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian-controlled land (Area A).

As of August 2007, a divided highway is currently under construction that will pass through the West Bank. The highway has a concrete wall dividing the two sides, one designated for Israeli vehicles, the other for Palestinian. The wall is designed to allow Palestinians to pass north-south through Israeli-held land and facilitate the building of additional Jewish settlements in the Jerusalem neighborhood.[52]


The only airport in the West Bank is the Atarot Airport near Ramallah, but it has been closed since 2001. However, the airport is located within the Israeli unilaterally expanded limits of Jerusalem, so Israel considers it part of its territory.


The Palestinian Paltel telecommunication companies provide communication services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip such as landline, cellular network and Internet. Dialling code +970 is used in the West Bank and all over Palestinian territories within Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian mobile market was until 2007 monopolized by Jawwal. A new mobile operator launched in 2009 under the name of Wataniya Telecom in Palestine. The number of internet users is increasing rapidly (160,000 users in 2005)[53]

Radio and television

The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from an AM station in Ramallah on 675 kHz; numerous local privately owned stations are also in operation. Most Palestinian households have a radio and TV, and satellite dishes for receiving international coverage are widespread. Recently, PalTel announced and has begun implementing an initiative to provide ADSL broadband internet service to all households and businesses. Israel's cable television company HOT, satellite television provider (DBS) Yes, AM and FM radio broadcast stations and public television broadcast stations all operate. Broadband internet service by Bezeq's ADSL and by the cable company are available as well. The Al-Aqsa Voice broadcasts from Dabas Mall in Tulkarem at 106.7 FM. The Al-Aqsa TV station shares these offices.

Higher education

Birzeit University, 2007

Seven Universities have been operating in the West Bank since 1967:

Most universities in the West Bank have politically active student bodies, and elections of student council officers are normally along party affiliations. Although the establishment of the universities was initially allowed by the Israeli authorities, some were sporadically ordered closed by the Israeli Civil Administration during the 1970s and 1980s to prevent political activities and violence against the IDF. Some universities remained closed by military order for extended periods during years immediately preceding and following the first Palestinian Intifada, but have largely remained open since the signing of the Oslo Accords despite the advent of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Second Intifada) in 2000.

The founding of Palestinian universities has greatly increased education levels among the population in the West Bank. According to a Birzeit University study, the percentage of Palestinians choosing local universities as opposed to foreign institutions has been steadily increasing; as of 1997, 41% of Palestinians with bachelor degrees had obtained them from Palestinian institutions.[62] According to UNESCO, Palestinians are one of the most highly educated groups in the Middle East "despite often difficult circumstances".[63] The literacy rate among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is 94,6% for 2009.[64]

Legal status

The United Nations Security Council,[65] the United Nations General Assembly,[66] the United States,[67] the EU,[68] the International Court of Justice,[69] and the International Committee of the Red Cross[70] refer to it as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. General Assembly resolution 58/292 (17 May 2004) affirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to sovereignty over the area.[71]

According to supporters of Israel's rights, since the area has never in modern times been an independent state, there is no legitimate claimant to the area other than the present occupier, which is Israel. This argument however is not accepted by the international community and international lawmaking bodies, virtually all of whom regard Israel's activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation that denies the fundamental principle of self-determination found in the Article One of the United Nations Charter, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 242 notes the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" regardless of whether the war in which the territory was acquired was offensive or defensive. Prominent Israeli human rights organizations such as B'tselem also refer to the Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation.[72] John Quigley has noted that "...a state that uses force in self-defense may not retain territory it takes while repelling an attack. If Israel had acted in self-defense, that would not justify its retention of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Under the UN Charter there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defense. The response of other states to Israel's occupation shows a virtually unanimous opinion that even if Israel's action were defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was not."[73]

International law (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) prohibits "transfers of the population of an occupying power to occupied territories", incurring a responsibility on the part of Israel's government to not settle Israeli citizens in the West Bank.[74]

Some countries, such as Brazil[75] and Argentina,[76] recognize the State of Palestine and consider the West Bank to be territory of that state.

Political positions

The future status of the West Bank, together with the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean shore, has been the subject of negotiation between the Palestinians and Israelis, although the current Road Map for Peace, proposed by the "Quartet" comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, envisions an independent Palestinian state in these territories living side by side with Israel (see also proposals for a Palestinian state). However, the "Road Map" states that in the first phase, Palestinians must end all attacks on Israel, whereas Israel must dismantle outposts. Since neither condition has been met since the Road Map was "accepted", by all sides, final negotiations have not yet begun on major political differences.

The Palestinian Authority believes that the West Bank ought to be a part of their sovereign nation, and that the presence of Israeli military control is a violation of their right to Palestinian Authority rule. The United Nations calls the West Bank and Gaza Strip Israeli-occupied territories. The United States State Department also refers to the territories as occupied.[77][78][79] Many Israelis and their supporters prefer the term disputed territories, because they claim part of the territory for themselves, and state the land has not, in 2000 years, been sovereign.

Israel argues[citation needed] that its presence is justified because:

  1. Israel's eastern border has never been defined by anyone;
  2. The disputed territories have not been part of any state since the time of the Ottoman Empire;
  3. According to the Camp David Accords with Egypt, the 1994 agreement with Jordan and the Oslo Accords with the PLO, the final status of the territories would be fixed only when there was a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian public opinion opposes Israeli military and settler presence on the West Bank as a violation of their right to statehood and sovereignty.[80] Israeli opinion is split into a number of views:

  • Complete or partial withdrawal from the West Bank in hopes of peaceful coexistence in separate states (sometimes called the "land for peace" position); (In a 2003 poll, 76% of Israelis supported a peace agreement based on that principle).[81]
  • Maintenance of a military presence in the West Bank to reduce Palestinian terrorism by deterrence or by armed intervention, while relinquishing some degree of political control;
  • Annexation of the West Bank while considering the Palestinian population with Palestinian Authority citizenship with Israeli residence permit as per the Elon Peace Plan;
  • Annexation of the West Bank and assimilation of the Palestinian population to fully fledged Israeli citizens;
  • Transfer of the East Jerusalem Palestinian population (a 2002 poll at the height of the Al Aqsa intifada found 46% of Israelis favoring Palestinian transfer of Jerusalem residents;[82] in 2005 two polls using a different methodology put the number at approximately 30%).[83]


Greater Jerusalem, May 2006. CIA remote sensing map showing areas considered settlements, plus refugee camps, fences, walls, etc.

Through the Jerusalem Law Israel effectively, though not officially, annexed the territory of East Jerusalem and its Palestinian residents have legal permanent residency status.[84][85] Rejecting the Jerusalem Law, the UN Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 478, declaring that the law was "null and void". Although permanent residents are permitted, if they wish, to receive Israeli citizenship if they meet certain conditions including swearing allegiance to the State and renouncing any other citizenship, most Palestinians did not apply for Israeli citizenship for political reasons.[86] There are various possible reasons as to why the West Bank had not been annexed[87] to Israel after its capture in 1967. The government of Israel has not formally confirmed an official reason; however, historians and analysts have established a variety of such, most of them demographic. Among those most commonly cited have been:

  • Reluctance to award its citizenship to an overwhelming number of a potentially hostile population whose allies were sworn to the destruction of Israel.[88][89]
  • To ultimately exchange land for peace with neighbouring states[88][89]
  • Fear that the population of ethnic Arabs, including Israeli citizens of Palestinian ethnicity, would outnumber the Jewish Israelis west of the Jordan River.[87][88]
  • The disputed legality of annexation under the Fourth Geneva Convention[90]

The importance of demographic concerns to some significant figures in Israel's leadership was illustrated when Avraham Burg, a former Knesset Speaker and former chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, wrote in The Guardian in September 2003,

"Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish state - not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish."[91]

Settlements and international law

Map of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, January 2006

As of December 2010, 327,750 Israelis live in the 121 officially-recognised settlements in the West Bank, 192,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem [11]

Israeli settlements on the West Bank beyond the Green Line border are considered by the United Nations among others to be illegal under international law.[92][93][94][95] Other legal scholars[96] including Julius Stone,[97] have argued that the settlements are legal under international law, on a number of different grounds. The Independent reported in March 2006 that immediately after the 1967 war Theodor Meron, legal counsel of Israel's Foreign Ministry advised Israeli ministers in a "top secret" memo that any policy of building settlements across occupied territories violated international law and would "contravene the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention".[98][99]

A contrasting opinion was held by Eugene Rostow, a former Dean of the Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs in the administration of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and a drafter of UN Resolution 242:

The heated question of Israel's settlements in the West Bank during the occupation period should be viewed in this perspective. The British Mandate recognized the right of the Jewish people to "close settlement" in the whole of the Mandated territory. It was provided that local conditions might require Great Britain to "postpone" or "withhold" Jewish settlement in what is now Jordan. This was done in 1922. But the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan river, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors. And perhaps not even then, in view of Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, "the Palestine article", which provides that "nothing in the Charter shall be construed ... to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments...."[100]

The European Union[101] and the Arab League[citation needed] consider the settlements to be illegal. Israel also recognizes that some small settlements are "illegal" in the sense of being in violation of Israeli law.[102][103]

In 2005 the United States ambassador to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, expressed U.S. support "for the retention by Israel of major Israeli population centres [in the West Bank] as an outcome of negotiations",[104] reflecting President Bush's statement a year earlier that a permanent peace treaty would have to reflect "demographic realities" on the West Bank.[105]

The UN Security Council has issued several non-binding resolutions addressing the issue of the settlements. Typical of these is UN Security Council resolution 446 which states [the] practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity, and it calls on Israel as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.[106]

The Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention held in Geneva on 5 December 2001 called upon "the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to refrain from perpetrating any violation of the Convention." The High Contracting Parties reaffirmed "the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof."[107]

On December 30, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued an order requiring approval by both the Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Defense Minister of all settlement activities (including planning) in the West Bank.[108]

West Bank barrier

West Bank Barrier (Separating Wall)

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a physical barrier ordered for construction by the Israeli Government, consisting of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 metres (197 ft) wide exclusion area (90%) and up to 8 metres (26 ft) high concrete walls (10%) (although in most areas the wall is not nearly that high).[109] It is located mainly within the West Bank, partly along the 1949 Armistice line, or "Green Line" between the West Bank and Israel. As of April 2006 the length of the barrier as approved by the Israeli government is 703 kilometers (437 mi) long. Approximately 58.4% has been constructed, 8.96% is under construction, and construction has not yet begun on 33% of the barrier.[110] The space between the barrier and the green line is a closed military zone known as the Seam Zone, cutting off 8.5% of the West Bank and encompassing tens of villages and tens of thousands of Palestinians.[111][112][113]

The barrier generally runs along or near the 1949 Jordanian-Israeli armistice/Green Line, but diverges in many places to include on the Israeli side several of the highly populated areas of Jewish settlements in the West Bank such as East Jerusalem, Ariel, Gush Etzion, Immanuel, Karnei Shomron, Givat Ze'ev, Oranit, and Maale Adumim.

The barrier is a very controversial project. Supporters claim the barrier is a necessary tool protecting Israeli civilians from the Palestinian attacks that increased significantly during the Al-Aqsa Intifada;[114][115] it has helped reduce incidents of terrorism by 90% from 2002 to 2005; over a 96% reduction in terror attacks in the six years ending in 2007,[116] though Israel's State Comptroller has acknowledged that most of the suicide bombers crossed into Israel through existing checkpoints.[117] Its supporters claim that the onus is now on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism.[118]

Opponents claim the barrier is an illegal attempt to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security,[119] violates international law,[120] has the intent or effect to pre-empt final status negotiations,[121] and severely restricts Palestinians who live nearby, particularly their ability to travel freely within the West Bank and to access work in Israel, thereby undermining their economy. According to a 2007 World Bank report, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has destroyed the Palestinian economy, in violation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. All major roads (with a total length of 700 km) are basically off-limits to Palestinians, making it impossible to do normal business. Economic recovery would reduce Palestinian dependence on international aid by one billion dollars per year.[122]

Pro-settler opponents claim that the barrier is a sly attempt to artificially create a border that excludes the settlers, creating facts on the ground that justify the mass dismantlement of hundreds of settlements and the displacement of over 100,000 Jews from the land they claim as their biblical homeland.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Israel Defense Forces, Ordinance No. 187, "Ordinance about Interpretation", "The term Region of Yehuda ve-HaŠomron will be identical in meaning, for all purposes, including any legal issue or security legislation, to the term Region of HaGada HaMa'aravit", 17 December 1967, Major General Uzi Narkis, Commander of Central District and IDF Forces in the Region of HaGada HaMa'aravit. Published in Hebrew and Arabic in Collection no. 9 of ordinances for the West Bank, 22 January 1968, p. 368
  2. ^ Dishon (1973) Dishon Record 1968 Published by Shiloah Institute (later the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies) and John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0-470-21611-5 p 441
  3. ^ The World Factbook - Field Listing :: Coastline, Central Intelligence Agency
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  6. ^ Joseph Massad said that the members of the Arab League granted de facto recognition and that the United States had formally recognized the annexation, except for Jerusalem. See Joseph A. Massad, Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001),ISBN 0-231-12323-X, page 229. Records show that the United States de facto accepted the annexation without formally recognizing it. United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States, 1950. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa pg. 921
  7. ^ a b It is often stated that Pakistan recognized it as well, but that seems to be untrue; see S. R. Silverburg, Pakistan and the West Bank: A research note, Middle Eastern Studies, 19:2 (1983) 261-263.
  8. ^ Anger at Israeli settlement plan, BBC, 7 September 2009
  9. ^ See Geography of the West Bank.
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  16. ^ a b "In May–June 1967 Eshkol's government did everything in its power to confine the confrontation to the Egyptian front. Eshkol and his colleagues took into account the possibility of some fighting on the Syrian front. But they wanted to avoid having a clash with Jordan and the inevitable complications of having to deal with the predominantly Non-Jewish Arab population of the West Bank. The fighting on the eastern front was initiated by Jordan, not by Israel. King Hussein got carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism. On 30 May he flew to Cairo and signed a defense pact with Nasser. On 5 June, Jordan started shelling the Israeli side in Jerusalem. This could have been interpreted either as a salvo to uphold Jordanian honor or as a declaration of war. Eshkol decided to give King Hussein the benefit of the doubt. Through General Odd Bull, the Norwegian commander of UNTSO, he sent the following message the morning of 5 June: 'We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan. However, should Jordan open hostilities, we shall react with all our might, and the king will have to bear the full responsibility of the consequences.' King Hussein told General Bull that it was too late; the die was cast." Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, pp. 243–244.
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    • "Nasser ... closed the Gulf of Aqaba to shipping, cutting off Israel from its primary oil supplies. He told U.N. peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula to leave. He then sent scores of tanks and hundreds of troops into the Sinai closer to Israel. The Arab world was delirious with support", The Mideast: A Century of Conflict Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War, NPR morning edition, October 3, 2002. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
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  • Albin, Cecilia (2001). Justice and Fairness in International Negotiation. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-79725-X
  • Bamberger, David (1985, 1994). A Young Person's History of Israel. Behrman House. ISBN 0-87441-393-1
  • Dowty, Alan (2001). The Jewish State: A Century Later. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22911-8
  • Eldar, Akiva and Zertal, Idith (2007). Lords of the land: the war over Israel's settlements in the occupied territories, 1967-2007, Nation Books. ISBN 9781568584140
  • Gibney, Mark and Frankowski, Stanislaw (1999). Judicial Protection of Human Rights. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-96011-0
  • Gordon, Neve (2008).Israel's Occupation. University of California Press, Berkeley CA, ISBN 0520255313
  • Gorenberg, Gershom. The Accidental Empire. Times Books, Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-8241-7. 2006.
  • Howell, Mark (2007). What Did We Do to Deserve This? Palestinian Life under Occupation in the West Bank, Garnet Publishing. ISBN 1-85964-195-4
  • Oren, Michael (2002). Six Days of War, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515174-7
  • Playfair, Emma (Ed.) (1992). International Law and the Administration of Occupied Territories. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-825297-8
  • Shlaim, Avi (2000). The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04816-0

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  • West Bank — in reference to the former Jordanian territory west of the River Jordan, 1967 …   Etymology dictionary

  • West Bank — an area in the Middle East, between the W bank of the Jordan River and the E frontier of Israel: occupied in 1967 and subsequently claimed by Israel; formerly held by Jordan. * * * West Bank Introduction West Bank Background: The Israel PLO… …   Universalium

  • West Bank — <p></p> <p></p> Introduction ::West Bank <p></p> Background: <p></p> From the early 16th century through 1917, the area now known as the West Bank fell under Ottoman rule. Following World War I, the …   The World Factbook

  • West Bank —    The area of historical Palestine lying west of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea (and known by many Israelis and Jews by the biblical terms Judea and Samaria). Designated by the United Nations Palestine Partition Plan to become part of an Arab …   Historical Dictionary of Israel

  • West Bank — noun an area between Israel and Jordan on the west bank of the Jordan river; populated largely by Palestinians • Members of this Region: ↑Aksa Martyrs Brigades, ↑al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, ↑Martyrs of al Aqsa • Instance Hypernyms: ↑geographical… …   Useful english dictionary

  • West-Bank — Das Westjordanland (arabisch ‏الضفة الغربية‎, DMG aḍ ḍaffa al ġarbiyya, hebräisch: הגדה המערבית haGada haMa arawit), auch Westjordanien, Judäa und Samarien (hebräisch ‏יהודה ושומרון‎ Jehuda we Schomron) oder englisch West Bank, selten auch… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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