Israeli Settlement Policies
There are Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. These highly contested Jewish communities range in size from small villages to now recognized cities. To better understand this situation, this paper will overview the background on Israelis settlements. The legality of settlements, in regards to International Law, will also be discussed. UN resolutions regarding the settlements will be reviewed. This will be followed by a discussion of the impact of settlements on Palestinians in the West Bank. The preferential treatment the settlements receive, compared to the original cities, will be presented. Lastly, how settlemenst should be addressed in the future will be overviewed.
Israeli Settlements Background:
Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have existed for thousands of years. “In Hebron, the Jewish community existed throughout the centuries of Ottoman rule, until the massacre during the Arab rioting of 1929
.” In the West Bank, formerly known as Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, Jewish communities existed until the Arab armies forced the citizens to flee, during the 1948 War of Independence. Some settlements were established by the British Mandatory Administration. These include Neve Ya’acoy and the Gush Etsion block. The British Mandatory Administration, through the implementation of a League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine, permitted Israelis to form settlements west of the Jordan River.
This mandate established a Jewish state, in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. Article 6 of the mandate states,
The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced. Shall facilitate Jewish immigration under
suitable conditions and shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use
The British government also used this mandate to establish Jordan, an Arab country. It would be Jordan that would annex the areas formerly known as Judea and Samaria, and renamed it the West Bank. In addition to wanting to reestablish historical and religious ties to this area which they considered the cradle of their faith, Israel saw settlements in this area as strategic for the country’s defense against attacks, from Jordan, as well as Syria and Egypt
Palestinians oppose the Jewish settlements surmising that they are an attempt to sabotage Palestinian sovereignty. For years, a peace plan road map has been in the works, with one of the requirements being Israel’s agreement that there is a building freeze in current settlements. However, even this roadmap has seen challenges. In 2005, while Israel pulled settlers out of the Gaza Strip, it increased the presence of settlers in other areas. To add to these challenges, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the Israeli government had supported the establishment of multiple unauthorized outposts, further adding fuel to the debate
Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to get Cabinet support for another 90-day moratorium on construction of settlements, in the West Bank. In September of 2010, a 10-month construction moratorium was ended by Israel, which prompted Palestinians to stop peace talks. The United States has intervened not only offering to sell 20 stealth fighter jets to Israel, but also to block any United Nations’ anti-Israel resolutions, if they’ll agree to the renewed moratorium. However, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party opposes the freeze. To further complicate matters, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is rejecting the moratorium as well, because it only applies to the West Bank and not also to East Jerusalem
As of March 2010, there were 121 Jewish settlements, in addition to 102 Israeli illegally built outposts. Approximately 462,000 Israelis live in these settlements. 191,000 of these settlers live in settlements around the Jerusalem areas. 271,400 are located throughout the West Bank. The rate of growth of the Jewish population has been four to six percent, per year, over the last two decades. This is a significantly higher growth rate than the population of Israel, as a whole, which has grown at a rate of 1.5%, over the last 20 years. Recently, 9,000 additional housing units have been approved in East Jerusalem. In the West Bank, although buildings take up less than three percent of the area, roadways and restriction of Palestinian access expands Israeli settlement area to 40% of the area
The determination of the legality of the Jewish settlements often depends on which side of the argument is being questioned. In 1917, a letter from Lord Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leading member of the Zionist Federation, conveyed that the British government was in favor of establishing a national home for Jewish people, in Palestine. However, this should not interfere with the religious and civil rights of existing non-Jewish persons in Palestine
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the legal right of Jewish settlements is based on the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine. In addition, the MFA insists that Jewish settlements in these contested areas have existed for more than a thousand years, with the only administration prohibiting settlement being during the Jordanian occupation, which lasted 19 years. During this time, under Jordanian Law,
the sale of land to Jews (was) a capital offense. The right of Jews to establish homes in these areas, and the legal titles to the land which had been acquired, could not be legally invalidated by the Jordanian or Egyptian occupation which resulted from their armed invasion of Israel in 1948, and such rights and titles remain valid to this day
Despite this challenge, Jewish settlements have remained.
Many opponents of the Jewish settlements cite Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the forcible transfer of citizens of one state to another state due to the resort of armed forces. Drafted after World War II, with commentary by the International Red Cross, this article was drafted to protect local populations from displacement, as happened with the forced transfer of populations in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. However, the MFA insists that the Jewish settlements are different
The MFA cites former Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Professor Eugene Rostow, as noting, “the Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the local population to live there.
” the difference between the situations discussed in the Geneva Convention and those present in Jewish settlements lies in the voluntary nature of the settlements. The Jewish settlements were established by individuals who wanted to return to the area in which their forefathers originally lived and been ousted from. Therefore, the settlements aren’t forced locations of people into the area. In addition, Israel argues that that when the settlements were first established, the land was not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state, nor under private ownership. The Supreme Court of Israel performs an exhaustive investigation process, according to the MFA, to ensure no authorized settlements are founded on private Arab land.
This process ensures that there is no displacement of Arabs in the area. For this reason, the MFA surmises that the claims that Jewish settlements are illegal are due to political motivations, and not in accordance with international law. Therefore claims that these settlements are ‘grave violations’ of the Geneva Convention and are ‘war crimes’ are baseless and do not justify the violent responses by Palestinians. The MFA sums up the legality of Jewish settlements, as follows: “Israel has valid claims to title in this territory based not only on its historic and religious connection to the land, and its recognized security needs, but also on the fact that the territory was not under the sovereignty of any state and came under Israeli control in a war of self-defense, imposed upon Israel.
UN Resolutions Regarding Settlements:
As the predecessor of the United Nations, the League of Nations passed several mandates that affected, directly and indirectly, Jewish settlements. The first was the French Mandate for Syria. In 1919, at the Paris peace conference, Dr. Weizmann, representing the Zionist interests, and Emir Feisal, representing Arab interests, met and agreed to a plan to support a new Jewish home. However, this support was based on Arab aspirations in Syria. The French Mandate for Syria gave Syria to the French, and Feisal withdrew his support of the Zionist project
The League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine, in 1922, further affected Jewish settlements. This mandate set for the administration of the territory of Palestine conveying it to Great Britain, giving Britain legislative and administrative control. It also concurred with the Balfour Declaration and came out in favor “of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
” the mandate further surmises that there is a historical connection between the Jewish people and Palestine and that this is the basis for reconstituting a national home in the area. Specifically, in Article 2, Britain was charged with placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion
In 1947, one of the first things to come before the General Assembly of the United Nations was the question of Palestine. The 11-member Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was formed. In the end, the majority of the members recommended that Palestine be divided into an Arab State and a Jewish State. Jerusalem would be awarded special international status.
On November 29th, 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (III) the Plan of Partition with Economic Union, per the UNSCOP. This resolution included an attached four-part documented, which included the termination of the Mandate for Palestine, progressive withdrawal of British forces, and border creation between the Arab state, Jewish state and Jerusalem. The creation of Arab and Jewish states were to be done by October 1st, 1948. Palestine would be divided into eight parts. Three parts would be allocated to the Arab state; three would be allocated to the Jewish state. The seventh part would be the town of Jaffa, which would be an Arab enclave, within the Jewish state. The eight part would be the international city of Jerusalem, which would be administered by the United Nations Trusteeship Council. Other details were included in the plan, including: citizenship details, economic union, transit, access to holy places, and also established UNSCOP to carry out the recommendations and the Security Council to implement the partition plan. The resolution was accepted by the Jewish Agency; however, it was not accepted by the Palestinian Arabs and Arab States
By 1948, the UN Security Council determined that the situation was a threat to peace and ordered a ceasefire. On December 11th, 1948, resolution 194 (III) was adopted, as a means of solving the problem in Palestine. The resolution declared that refugees that wished to return to their homes should be allowed to do so and live in peace. Compensation should be given to property owners not wishing to return. Demilitarization and internationalization of Jerusalem was ordered, as well as free access to holy places. Lastly, a three-member UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine was established, which assumed the functions of the UN Mediator, in trying to assist the parties in a final settlement
Impact of Settlements on Palestinians in the West Bank:
Although Jewish settlers on the West Bank feel they have the right to be there, given the history and previous declarations, mandates and resolutions, the Palestinians living in the area are negatively affected. In Hebron, a city that has been sanctified by Jews, Muslims and Christians as the burial site of Abraham, the persecution of Palestinians has become routine. Jewish settlers and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who protect the settlers violently harass and antagonize Palestinians in the area
Schneider reports about the situation her co-author and other volunteers for Inspire Dreams witnessed:
In the “open-air” market in old Hebron, Israeli settlers inhabit the second and third floors of buildings from which Palestinian families had been evicted years ago. From this vantage point, they hurl everything from rocks and debris to buckets of scalding oil, boiling water, and excrement on the Palestinians and their wares below. The metal grate
“roof” constructed by the Palestinians offers some protection from the larger objects, but not the liquids. In early August Sam and other Inspire Dreams volunteers witnessed the Israeli Defense Forces moving in on the marketplace, but not to protect the shopkeepers and their customers. Instead, they beat several of the shop owners and welded the doors to the stalls shut, effectively evicting the Palestinians from their workplaces.
Other report include harassment by a gang of boys shouting, “Visa! Visa! No Arabs!” And being told by IDF that if they had continued down the street further they may have been shot by Jewish settlers. At one of the Israeli checkpoints that exist at every West Bank city, one of the Arab-American members of their party had his camera smashed by an IDF soldier, because it had pictures of Jewish settlements. It is this sort of treatment, coupled with the violent attacks on Jewish settlers by Palestinian inhabitants, that add fuel to the fire regarding this land dispute, and is one of the reasons the two parties still have yet to come to some sort of peaceful resolution, despite the best efforts of the United Nations and other nations.
Preferential Treatment of Settlements:
The preferential treatment of Jewish settlements is another sticking point for many Palestinians. When a settlement is approved by the Israeli government, an outpost is developed. This is often a select number of families that move to an area and live there in traliers. There they wait until the Israeli government sends financial support and builds infrastructure
. This infrastructure includes by-pass roads.
The by-pass roads that link the settlements have a 50 to 75 meter buffer zone on each side. No construction is permitted in this zone, which has led to a loss of agricultural and privately-owned land by Palestinians. In addition to the consumption of their land, Palestinians are also forbidden to use these roads
. In addition, there is a disparity in resources, between the two parties.
Many of the Jewish settlements are constructed on prime agricultural land. Although settlements only constitute three percent of the land in the West Bank, a total of 40% is annexed by Israelis with their bypass roads and buffer zones. Other settlements are constructed over critical water resources, including springs, wells, and the Western Aquifer basin. In addition, Jewish settlers consume more water than Palestinian residents, with settlers consuming approximately 280 liters per day, while Palestinians only consume 86 liters per day, on average. The World Health Organization recommends a consumption rate of 100 liters per day, meaning settlers consume almost three times that amount
Addressing Settlements in the Future:
Addressing settlements in the future is a difficult challenge. Clearly, if there was an easy answer, this often violent situation would have been resolved decades ago. Today, years of peace talks have yet to realize real results, with the decades of political negotiations resulting in nothing truly agreed upon other than the Green Line, established by the 1949 Armistice, and the Israeli West Bank barrier, reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. Official cease fires exist, but violence on the streets continues, among the settlers and Palestinians. Moratoriums on construction of new settlements hold out for a couple of months, as a means of facilitating future negotiations, but even those are tentative.
Future dealings must take into account both sides of the argument. Palestinians perceive Jewish settlements as occupation in their sovereign state. With the impact on resources these settlements have, as well as the increasing size of the settlements, it’s not surprising that Palestinians are concerned. They also see these settlements as a security threat for their nation.
On the Jewish side of the argument, this land is the land of their forefathers. It holds both historical and religious significance for the Jewish people. Defensively, there is also strategic worth to these settlements. This is validated by past invasion attempts, such as the invasion in 1948. In addition, international law appears to be on Israel’s side. From the Balfour Declaration to the Mandate for Palestine to UN resolutions, the formation of a Jewish state in the area has been mandated.
In an increasingly globalized world, where borders are coming down to facilitate increased trade and partnerships, it’s almost unfathomable that these two countries seem to be stuck in an era of isolationism. What would be best for both countries is to come to some sort of compromise, allowing Israel the Jewish state they were promised, plus giving the Palestinians the sovereignty they should have. With security a concern, perhaps an international zone, much as was suggested in resolution 181 with the city of Jerusalem, should be created. This buffer would help alleviate some of the security concerns both parties have.
Some believe a singular state, for both Palestinians and Jews, is the optimal solution. It would be wonderful if these two groups could focus on their commonalities, rather than their differences, and coexist peacefully within the same nation. This would address the challenge of the hundreds of thousands of people who have now intermixed in these contested areas. As it stands, if the land was officially divided into two states, many people would be displaced — Jewish settlers that would end up in the Palestinian state and Palestinians who would end up in the Jewish state. Right now, these two groups live together in the same towns, along the same streets, and sometimes in the same buildings.
Despite the concern that a two-state system would only encourage continued conflict between the parties, and the belief that a single state would help ease discriminatory practices between the two religions, a democratic single state offers problems of its own. There would be a population inequality that would make democracy difficult. The decades of fighting would likely make many legislative decisions pro-Palestinian, which would be facilitated by the population disparity.
In addition, the concept of a Jewish state and the concept of a Palestinian state are now hyper-ingrained in the social consciousness of both groups of people. This would make it very difficult for either group to agree to a combined, single state solution. Although there will be challenges with the tiny enclaves that are dotted across the landscape, and the co-existence of both parties in cities, a single state would likely only result in increased ethnic tensions. A two-state solution will allow both parties to have their sovereignty, although it may present problems during implementation.
In the end, a true and lasting solution is going to have to take compromise from both Israel and Palestine. Until globalization and multicultural identities make these two societies ethnically blind, developing a win-win situation, where both nations get at least something they both want, is going to have to take form as a two-state system. However, as the decades progress, and the world becomes ever more interconnected, it won’t be surprising if in a few generations, a global community outweighs the nationalism that is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian problems.
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