The Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and historically in Gaza represent one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. In this article, we shall examine the history of the Israeli settlements in Palestine. We shall also examine current settlement proposals by the Israeli government, as well as how domestic and international actors have reacted to these activities. Namely, we shall discuss the Israeli settlements within international law, as well as how international states have responded, and how they are currently responding to such actions, as well as plans for further settlement expansion.
For example, as B’Tselem explains, “Since 1967 Israel has established over a hundred settlements in the West Bank. In addition, there are dozens more settlement outposts that are not officially recognized by the authorities. These settlements were established on vast tracts of land taken from the Palestinians, in breach of international humanitarian law. The very existence of the settlements violates Palestinian human rights, including the right to property, equality, a decent standard of living and freedom of movement. Israel’s dramatic alteration of the West Bank map has precluded realization of Palestinians’ right to self-determination in a viable Palestinian state.” Therefore, it is important to discuss the Israeli settlements, and the effect that they are having with regards to possibilities of peace between Israel and Palestinian representatives.
History of Israeli Settlements
Looking at the history of Israeli settlements, it is evident that here have been decades of activity, where the Israeli state has built homes and neighborhoods on Palestinian land. In fact, “
From 1967 to late 2012, 125 Israeli settlements were established in the West Bank that were recognized by the Ministry of the Interior as “communities”. Also established:
- about 100 outposts (settlements built without official authorization but with support and assistance from government ministries).
- a number of Jewish settlement locales inside Hebron which receive government support.
- 12 neighborhoods in areas of the West Bank annexed by Israel in 1967 and assigned to Jerusalem’s jurisdiction. The government has also funded and assisted in the establishment of several settler enclaves in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
- 16 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the northern West Bank that were dismantled in 2005 in the course of the Disengagement Plan” (B”Tselem (2014).
Furthermore, the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also been a strong advocate of the Israeli settlements in Palestine. In fact, “Since Netanyahu took office in March 2009, the population of Israeli settlements has grown dramatically. According to recently released Israeli government data, from the beginning of 2009 until the beginning of 2014, the settlement population grew 23 percent — more than double the rate of the overall Israeli population, which expanded 9.6 percent” (Goldstein, 2015).
Current Israeli Settlement Plans
The Israeli government–in 2014 and 2015–has continued to propose expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Below are a list of announcements of Israeli settlements in these areas, as well as the government’s statements and/or arguments they have proposed for the settlement expansion in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
January 30th, 2015
On January 30th, 2015, according to the non-governmental organization Terrestrial Jerusalem (in Yahoo, 2015), the Israeli government made an announcement that the government has published tenders for 430 new homes in the West Bank. These homes will be occupied by Israeli settlers (Yahoo, 2015). According to Daniel Seidemann of Terrestrial Jerusalem, he was quoted as saying that “It’s the opening of the settlement floodgates” by the Israeli government in Palestine. These homes are said “to be built in four existing settlements across the West Bank — 112 in Adam, 156 in Elkana, 78 in Alfei Menashe and 84 in Kiryat Arba” (Yahoo, 2015).
According to Seidemann, this is a political move by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the March 2015 Israeli elections (Yahoo, 2015). Netanyahu’s Likud Party is one of many parties running, and despite earlier leads months ago, there has been a strong rise in support for the center-left Labor Party.
Many within the intentional community were upset by this recent announcement. For example, “a representative of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini” was quoted as saying that they “are illegal in international law and constitute an obstacle to peace” (in Lazaroff, 2015).
However, the criticism of the Israeli settlements even includes the United States government, which is a strong ally of Israel. Following Israel’s announcement of the new West Bank settlements, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that “We have deep concerns about these highly contentious settlement construction announcements. They will have detrimental impacts on the ground, inflame already heightened tensions with the Palestinians and further isolate the Israelis internationally…” (Lazaroff, 2015). He went on to say that ““The United States, as a close ally of Israel, works – you know, uses our diplomatic influence around the globe to try to build support for Israel, and an announcement like this only serves to further isolate them,” along with other statements, such as “Settlements are illegitimate and counterproductive to achieving a two-state solution,” Earnest said. “I can tell you that issuing tenders like this does nothing to bolster Israel’s security, it does not increase its prosperity and it does not further the cause of peace, in fact it does precisely the opposite” (in Lazaroff, 2015).
The Effects of Israeli Settlements
There are many negative effects of the Israeli settlements in Palestine. As B”Tselem (2014) accurately point out, “The existence of settlements leads to violations of many of the human rights of Palestinians, including the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. In addition, the radical changes Israel has made to the map of the West Bank preclude any real possibility of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the fulfillment of the right to self-determination.”
The Israeli settlements are also against international law. This begins with United Nations Resolution 242, which specifically called for Israel to withdraw from the various territories they occupied in the 1967 War (such which include the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem (along with the Golan Heights, as well as the Sinai Peninsula (which Israeli gave back following the 1978 peace talks with Anwar Sadat of Egypt)). United Nations Resolution 242 (1967) states:
The Security Council,
Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,
Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,
Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,
1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;
2. Affirms further the necessity
(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;
(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;
(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;
3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;
4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.
In addition, there have been many more United Nations resolutions against Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
B”Tselem (2014). Land Expropriation and Settlements. January 23, 2014. Available Online: http://www.btselem.org/settlements
B’Tselem (2015). Settlements. Available Online: http://www.btselem.org/topic/settlements
Lazaroff, T. (2015). White House: Settlement building isolates Israel in world, undermines chance for 2-state solution. Jerusalem Post, 02/01/2015. Available Online: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/White-House-Settlement-building-isolates-Israel-internationally-and-undermines-the-possibility-of-a-two-state-solution-389612
United Nations (1967). United Nations Resolution 242 of 22 November, 1967. Available Online: http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/7D35E1F729DF491C85256EE700686136
Yahoo (2015). Israel to Build 430 New West Bank Homes: NGO. January 30th, 2015. Available Online: http://news.yahoo.com/israel-build-430-west-bank-settler-homes-ngo-080729424.html