The West Bank - Facts and Figures - August 2005
• 121 official settlements in the West Bank
• The built up area of the settlements is less than 3% of the area of the West Bank but the area they control (municipal area) is more than 40%
• 101 unauthorized outposts
• 51 outposts built since Sharon became prime minister
• 240,000 settlers in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem)
• 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank
• 60% of West Bank under Israeli control (C areas)
• Areas A+B together comprise 40% of area of West Bank
• The fence unilaterally annexes 10% of area of West Bank
• If the fence is built on the route the Government of Israel approved in February 2005, some 70,000 settlers will remain outside of it (on its east side)
The length of the presently planned fence will be more than 600 km instead of 300 km if it were built on the Green Line.
Since 1996 until today every Israeli government has officially declared that they have no intention of constructing new settlements in the West Bank.
In order to circumvent this government decision and to continue taking over additional hills and points throughout the West Bank, the settlement leadership began the system of building the illegal outposts, with the intention of creating facts on the ground, taking control of more points and forcing the government to recognize the outposts as a fait accompli and eventually turn them into legal settlements according to Israeli law.
The settlers choose to build the outposts at key points in the midst of the Palestinian population, deep inside the West Bank, in order to create territorial contiguity between the existing settlements and to break up the contiguity between Palestinian settlements. In that way the settlers are trying to thwart by all means the possibility of separating the two peoples and the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank.
The subject of the outposts entered the national and international agenda and received special attention as part of the demands from the Government of Israel in the Road Map. President George W. Bush mentions the subject every time the question of the settlements comes up, and recently he reiterated the demand the outposts be dismantled in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly
Due to the domestic and international criticism of the continued establishment and expansion of the outposts, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was compelled to ask lawyer Talia Sasson to carry out a comprehensive study of the issue.
On March 8, 2005, after months of intense work, Talia Sasson handed the prime minister a report that concluded: “It seems that law violation became institutionalized. We face not a felon, or a group of felons, violating the law. The big picture is a bold violation of laws by certain State authorities, public authorities, regional councils in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and settlers, while falsely presenting an organized legal system.”
Prime Minister Sharon mentions at every opportunity that one of the goals of the Disengagement Plan is to allow Israel to expand construction in the settlement blocs to ensure they stay under Israeli sovereignty forever. The use of the term “settlement blocs” allows the Government of Israel to considerably expand the size of those blocs and make the dream of a Palestinian state inoperable.
There are three main settlement blocs in the West Bank:
The Ma’ale Adumim – E1 bloc
Ma’ale Adumim is located in the West Bank and therefore is a settlement in every sense of the word. Ma’ale Adumim is the biggest settlement in the West Bank and is one of four West Bank settlements with the municipal status of city (Beitar Illit, Modi’in Illit and Ariel).
The continuing expansion of Ma’ale Adumim, which is presently the biggest settlement in the West Bank (some 30,000 residents) is eastward, towards the industrial area of Mishor Adumim. It is actually a new settlement that will be completely separate from Ma’ale Adumim.
E1 stands for “East 1,” the administrative title given to the area east of Jerusalem and west of Ma’ale Adumim.
Building in the E1 area will deal a fatal blow to a political solution based on the principle of two states for two peoples. Such construction would bloc the narrow 3-4 km strip between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim. That strip is crucial to maintaining minimal physical continuity between the northern and southern areas of the West Bank. Building in that area would actually split the West Bank into two areas: north and south. Carrying out the building plan in E1 would deepen the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
The expansion of Ma’ale Adumim, just like the expansion of any other settlement, it is a unilateral measure that undermines efforts to resume negotiations to resolve the conflict.
The Ariel bloc
Ariel is situated in the heart of the West Bank, along a mountain ridge more than 5 km long running east to west. The settlement is strung out in a long, narrow strip along the ridge. The settlement’s western edge, the one close to Israel, is 16 km from the Green Line, and its eastern edge is more than 21 km from the Green Line. Ariel is 40 km from Tel Aviv, 50 km from Jerusalem and 28 km from the border with Jordan.
The term “Ariel bloc” usually refers to the area of the West Bank defined by the eastern edge of Ariel in the east, the settlement of Kedumim in the north, the settlements of Karnei Shomron and Ma’ale Shomron in the northwest and the settlements of Beit Arieh and Ofarim in the south. This “bloc” includes many other settlements such as: Nofim, Yakir, Immanuel, Peduel, Alei Zahav, Barkan, Kiryat Netafim and Revava. Besides, the area also includes at least 7 illegal outposts gradually built in the last 8 years.
Because of the location of Ariel in the heart of the West Bank and its control of the main transportation routes in the area, its official or de facto annexation (by being included inside the fence) would fatally harm the contiguity of the area that is supposed to be part of the future Palestinian state. The annexation of the “Ariel bloc” will hurt the normal life of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living inside and around the bloc. It will create restrictions on travel and access to land and water resources vital to the Palestinian economy.
This area of settlement is found in the Hebron Hills, between Bethlehem and Hebron. Its original name was Kfar Etzion, which was the main settlement in this area prior to the establishment of the State. This bloc now includes the settlements of Efrata, Alon Shvut, El’azar, Bat Ayin, Kfar Etzion, Karmei Tzur, Migdal Oz, Neve Daniel and Rosh Tzurim.
Most of the construction in the West Bank is taking place in this area. At this moment in time the government in planning to construct an entire new city in the Gush area.
In June 2002 the Government of Israel decided to build the separation barrier whose declared goal was to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians from the West Bank into Israel. That barrier is comprised, in most places, of an electric fence, on both sides of which roads have been paved, barbed wire fences have been built and trenches have been dug. The average width of the barrier is 60 meters. In some areas the security establishment decided to build a wall six to eight meters high instead of the barrier.
Most of the route of the fence goes inside the area of the West Bank rather than on the Green Line. In the areas where the construction of the barrier has been completed the wide-ranging violation of the human rights of the Palestinians living near it is clearly evident. Its continued construction in the depth of the West Bank, as the government decided in October 2003, will lead to the further violation of the human rights of hundreds of thousands of residents.
The Palestinians living near the barrier already suffer from new restrictions on their movement, in addition to the broad restrictions imposed on them since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada. As a result, thousands of Palestinians have difficulty reaching the agricultural areas they own and marketing their produce in the rest of the West Bank. The areas where the barrier has become operative are among the most fertile parts of the West Bank and agricultural activity is one of the main sources of income in the villages located there. The harm to the agriculture industry may lead to a substantial worsening of the already severe economic situation in the territories, and many families may sink into a life of poverty.
At the present stage in the conflict the fence is a necessity, however Peace Now believes that this fence should run only or as close as possible along the Green Line, and not annex any West Bank land. In addition Israeli settlers that live beyond the constructed fence should be brought back to reside within Israel.