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Israeli Settlements in the West Bank

February 14, 2006

After "withdrawing" from Gaza, the Israeli government has been pushing ahead with the expansion and consolidation of its illegal settlements in the West Bank. In December, the Israeli government asked for construction bids for the building of 228 new homes in the Beitar Illit and Efrat settlements near Jerusalem.

Israeli leaders have also restated their plans to incorporate the large settlement blocs of Ariel and Ma'ale Adumin into the state of Israel and to link the latter directly to occupied Jerusalem.

In a December interview published in the Jerusalem Post, Ariel Sharon emphasized that Ma'ale Adumim will continue to grow and be connected to Israel and that the settlement of Ariel would be annexed as "part of Israel forever."

Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza through a war of aggression in 1967. Since then, Israel has carried on a continuous and planned program of grabbing Palestinian land, repressing and dispersing the indigenous Palestinian people and establishing permanent Israeli settlements. Israel's avowed aim is to expand its border and annex more of the land of Palestine.

The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank is currently estimated at 400,000; between 220,000 and 250,000 live in East Jerusalem. The number of settlements was estimated as at least 198 (see Palestine Monitor September 2003). In addition, settler communities have created some 130 "outposts" throughout the West Bank Some former outposts have, over the years, evolved into more permanent settlements like Amona, Horsha, Givat Harel and Zayit Ra'anan.

Some 2.34 million dunums or 42% of the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) are currently under the jurisdiction of settlements. 96,000 dunums of these are within built-up areas while the remainder serve as future land reserves for settlement extension (Palestine Monitor).

In addition, the settlements are linked to each other through a network of military access or "by-pass" roads which are reserved only for settlers and the Israeli military. Palestinians are forbidden to travel on these roads. The roads cut through Palestinian towns and villages and divide Palestinian areas into cantons, separated and easily encircled by the Israeli military.

International Law

Israeli settlements in the West Bank directly violate international law and repeated U.N. resolutions.

Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly stipulates that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." Article 46 of the Hague Convention prohibits the confiscation of private property in occupied territory. The confiscation of land by the Israeli government for settlement construction is in violation of this article. Article 55 of the Hague Convention stipulates that "the occupying state shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct." In other words, the occupying power cannot take over or use territories or private properties in the occupied territories to serve the interests of its civilian population.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) calls for Israel to withdraw completely from territories it occupied. The settlements are the biggest obstacle to implementing this resolution. UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980), which was unanimously adopted, made it clear that "Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants" in the occupied territories constitutes "a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East". The Security Council called upon Israel to "dismantle the existing settlements and in particular to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction or planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem."

The whole world knows, as Israel itself has repeatedly proclaimed, that Israel is setting up settlements in the West Bank as part of a planned annexation of the West Bank and expansion of the state of Israel. This aggressive expansionism of the Israeli state also aims at dividing the remaining Palestinian-inhabited areas of the West Bank into small, isolated cantons or ghettoes deprived of the geographic, economic and political conditions necessary to create a viable and independent Palestinian state.

From the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza until today, the U. S. government has supported Israeli settlements and expansion, financing and directing its military operations and repression against the Palestinian people.

On April 14 2004, George Bush publicly endorsed Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements, writing in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon: "in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."