Israeli Settlements in the West Bank

(May 20, 2002)

On May 13, B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, released a detailed report on the Israeli government's settlement program in the West Bank.

The report underscores that "international humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory. An occupying power is also prohibited from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area, unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population or are for urgent military needs. Israel's settlement policy violates these regulations."

The report points out that since 1967, 380,000 Israeli citizens have settled in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (the report does not include settlements in the Gaza Strip). Altogether, successive Israeli governments have ceded 41.9% of the area of the West Bank to settlements. This encompasses land directly built up by the settlements and areas set aside as reserves of "land for the future expansion."

B'Tselem writes: "The principal tool used to take control of land is to declare it 'state land.' This process began in 1979 . . . Other methods employed by Israel to take control of land include seizure for military needs, declaration of land as 'abandoned assets,' and the expropriation of land for public needs."...

"The Israeli administration has applied most aspects of Israeli law to the settlers and the settlements, thus effectively annexing them to the State of Israel....The areas of jurisdiction of the Jewish local authorities, most of which extend far beyond the built-up area, are defined as 'closed military zones' in the military orders. Palestinians are forbidden to enter these areas without authorization from the Israeli military commander. Israeli citizens, Jews from throughout the world and tourists are all permitted to enter these areas without the need for special permits."

The report also details the numerous financial incentives awarded by the Israeli government to settlers. These include special housing assistance, reductions and exemption in school fees and transportation, infrastructure investment for industrial zones, reduced income taxes for individual and companies, etc. "In the year 2000, the average per capita grant in the Jewish local councils in the West Bank was approximately 65% higher than the average per capita grant in local councils inside Israel. The discrepancy for the regional councils is even greater: the average per capita grant in 2000 in the regional councils on the West Bank was 165% of that for a resident inside Israel."

The report concludes: "Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying 2 separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa."

"Under this regime, Israel has stolen hundreds of thousands of dunam of land from the Palestinians. Israel has used this land to establish dozens of settlements in the West Bank and to populate them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. Israel prohibits Palestinians as a group from entering and using these lands, and uses the settlements to justify numerous violations of the Palestinians' human rights, such as the right to housing, to earn a livelihood, and the right to freedom of movement. The drastic change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the Palestinians' right to self-determination."...

"The settlements are unlawful, and their presence leads to the violation of human rights. Accordingly, B'Tselem demands that the Israeli government act to vacate all the settlements. This process must take place while respecting the human rights of the settlers, including payment of compensation."