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Israeli settlement

(The neutrality of this article is disputed.)

After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel reconstructed formerly lost Jewish communities and also built new settlements in the areas they conquered from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria (see West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan). The UN has many times in the past strongly condemned Israel for constructing and expanding its settlements. But some still claim there is a dispute whether these settlements are illegal under international law or not.

As of November 2000, just under 400,000 Israelis lived in the disputed territories, according to Israeli government statistics. The size of this number is controversial, as it includes a large number of Israeli citizens who live within East Jerusalem, which the United Nations once planned as international zone (former compromise proposal, Resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, which the Arab states rejected). Maps of these settlements [1], [1]. Since the Oslo Accords 1993 the settlers' number on the West Bank and Gaza (excluding East Jerusalem) has almost doubled, from 115,000 to 200,000.

Table of contents
1 Land grab accusations
2 Cost estimations
3 International and Legal background
4 Tensions, mistrust and accusations
5 External links

Land grab accusations

Israel claims that the majority of the land currently taken by the new settlements was either vacant, belonging to the state (from which it was leased) or bought fairly from the Palestinians, arguing on these three bases that there is nothing illegal about the settlements. Further it argues that these lands were conquered in a defensive war and therefore legitimate reparation. Opponents dispute at least one of these bases, saying that vacant land had either belonged to Arabs who had fled or was communal land, that had belonged collectively to an entire village. That practice had formed under Ottoman rule, although the British and the Jordanians have unsuccessfully tried to stop it since the late 1920s. B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, claims that the Israeli government used the absence of modern legal documents for the communal land as an excuse to seize it. Altogether, around 42% of the area of the West Bank (total of about 2,400 kmē) is controlled by Israeli settlers (see Map, MS Word format report.

Cost estimations

The Israeli government provides massive financial incentives to Jewish settlers in these disputed territories. The budget from 2001 shows that 204,000 settlers lived in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a figure that represents just under 3% of all Israeli residents; the money spent on this fragment of the Jewish populace that year was $533.6 million. The big-ticket financial compensation comprised transfers to local authorities ($195.6 million), income tax reductions ($48.7 million), housing subsidies ($136.5 million), and transportation mainly of bypass roads ($96.5 million) (these figures do not include investments for military defense). A report published by Ha'aretz on September 26, 2003, claimed that the non-military expenditure on the settlements was conservatively $560 million per year in excess of the usual expenditure on a similar number of ordinary Israeli citizens. Since they were not able to determine the cost of some large budget items such as land acquisition, the newspaper concluded that "the real figure is apparently much higher". The newspaper estimated the total unusual civilian expenditure since 1967 to be at least $10 billion. It said that the military cost was impossible to estimate but may be about the same. Settler organizations responded that in fact the budget discriminated against them. [1] As main reason for those disbursements is named strategic depth (the state of Israel experienced hostility and threat of annihilation from its neighbors from the beginning of its existence, see Arab-Israeli conflict). Many Arabs regard every Jewish community in Cisjordan as illegal, even the pure existence of the state of Israel. They also sometimes prefer to use the word "colonies" for Israeli settlements.

International and Legal background

Often, the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying country from moving its citizens into the territory, has been claimed by the Palestinians as a legal defense. Israel, in return, argues that West Bank and Gaza do not legally constitute occupied territories and hence denies the de-jure applicability of the Geneva conventions to them.

The establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been declared illegal by the UN Security Council many times, for example in resolutions 446, 452, 465 and 471.

Since resolutions 446 and 465 were not made under Chapter VI or VII of the United Nations Charter, Israel argues that it is purely an advisory request, and chose not to fulfill it. The issue of the legal status of resolutions of the UN Security Council not made under Chapters VI or VII of the Charter is controversial in international law -- some accept Israel's argument, others reject it, and consider the resolution to be legally binding on Israel.

Armistice agreements in effect at the time of the 1967 Six-Day War were violated by the Arab states when they declared war, rendering the existing cease fire lines meaningless. Thus there is no effective border between Israel and the former Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian territories within the former Palestine mandate. The settlements are not within an occupied territory. However, for this region alone this view is not accepted de-jure by the international community, even though in similar cases across the globe this view is accepted as normative. The current international consensus is that there should be new borders, defined by multilateral negotiations (see UN Security Council Resolution 242); this supports the Israeli's viewpoint.

Egypt never attempted to annex the Gaza Strip (although they did establish a strict military government there), and Jordan's annexation of the West Bank was recognised by only two nations. Moreover, Jordan withdrew its claim in 1988, leaving Israel as the only state holding a claim to the area. Therefore Israel holds that it is impossible to define these lands as "occupied", and denies the de-jure applicability of the Geneva Conventions to them. Palestinians reason that Jordan withdrew its claims so that a Palestinian Arab state could be established there -- not for Israeli settlements. To that, Israel replies that the stance of both Jordan and Egypt on this issue was that it was to be resolved bilaterally by Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel further points out that in the Oslo accords, the Palestinians accepted at least the temporary presence of Israeli settlements; therefore the violent attacks carried out by Palestinians against settlements are not only wrong because of settlers' being civilians, but also are in fact breach of a mutual agreement put down in the form of Oslo Accords. Some moderate Palestinians agree that violence is unacceptable. However, all but a tiny minority support the right of self defense against the heavily armed Jewish settlers a minority of which have attacked Palestinians. These attacks are viewed within Israel as the actions of extremists, and are not supported by the general population.

Tensions, mistrust and accusations

The settlements have on several occasions been a source of tension between Israel and the U.S. In 1991 there was a clash between the Bush administration and Israel, where the U.S. delayed a subsidized loan in order to pressure Israel not to proceed with the establishment of settlements for instance in the Jerusalem-Bethlehem corridor. Jimmy Carter has said that the settlements consitute a major obstacle to peace. The current Bush administration, while generally being supportive of Israel, has said that settlements are "unhelpful" to the peace process. Generally, these U.S. efforts have at most temporarily delayed further expansion of Israeli settlements. It should also be noted that U.S. public opinion is divided. The strongest support for the Israeli position can be found among the evangelical Christians. Public opinion outside the U.S. and Israel strongly opposes the settlements.

Palestinians argue that Israel has violated the Oslo accords by continuing to expand the settlements after the signing of the accords; Israel argues that it has not constructed new settlements, but rather made improvements to or expanded settlements already existing, in order to accommodate natural growth. Further Israel argues that the PLO instead violated the Oslo accords by not dismantling the terrorist organisations and by inciting their population to hate. Palestinians and other Arab states regularly accuse Israel of attacking refugee camps and villages in an attempt to scare off Palestinians and claim the land as theirs. Israel justifies that it only fights against those terrorist organisations, and if there would be no terrorists, there wouldn't be any military operations.

Israel previously also had settlements in the Sinai, but these where withdrawn as a result of the peace agreement with Egypt. Most proposals for achieving a final settlement of the Middle East conflict involve Israel dismantling a large number of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza strip. A poll conducted by Peace Now in July 2002 indicates that up to two-thirds of the settler population would agree to evacuate, provided that it is done as a result of a democratically-made and accepted decision by the Israeli government, while the rest would refuse to leave peacefully.

Most Israeli and US proposals for final settlement have also involved Israel being allowed to retain settlements near Israel proper and in East Jerusalem (the majority of the settler population is near the Green Line), with Israel annexing the land on which the settlements are located. This would result in a transfer of roughly 5% of the West Bank to Israel, with the Palestinians being compensated by the transfer of a similar share of Israeli territory (i.e. territory behind the Green Line) to the Palestinian state.

Palestinians complain that the land offered in exchange is situated in the Judean desert, while the areas that Israel seeks to retain are considered to be among the West Bank's most fertile areas; to this Israel replies that if the current Green line is fully retained, Israel would have at some points no more than 17 kilometers from the border to the sea, which is widely considered an immense security risk. However, this is an issue that is separate from the discussion of settlements. For more details about the issues at stake, see Proposals for a Palestinian state.

Topics that need more discussion

External links