Why are there Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories?

On NPR, I just heard a story about Bush’s talks with Egyptian President Mubarak about implementing the “Roadmap to Peace”. Bush talks about a “two-state solution,” but the story mentioned that Israel still wants to maintain six Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It got me to thinking: Why are they there? When Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the end of the Six Day War in 1967, it must have been obvious that these territories were full of Arabs and always would be. It wasn’t like the Indians in America; the Arabs were far more numerous (per square mile), far more sophisticated, and not susceptible to imported diseases. Pushing them out would never be an option. So why did the Israelis plant settlements in the territories? And who would voluntarily go to live in such dangerous territory, surrounded by people who hate you?

Here’s some info from the Israel point of view.

Why are there Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories?

Becayse it is so easy to steal from defensless people.

Btw. the cite given by zwaldd has nothing to do with even a biased truth. It is filled with (self-sencored).
It is just impossible to discuss the cite, because even partly quotes are forbidden.


“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours…
Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”

Ariel Sharon

Well, I think the basic rationale for the settlements, from the Israeli standpoint, is “We won 'em fair and square after being attacked in the 1967 war, and at present it is necessary to our security to keep them.”

There are some complicating factors involved, though:

  • Are you really allowed to keep control of territory acquired through armed conquest, even if you weren’t the aggressor in the conflict? The UN has repeatedly said no, the Israeli occupation of these areas is illegal.

  • How much is the settlement policy influenced by sheer religious or political expansionism—the attempt to create a de facto "Greater Israel—whose ultimate goal is to retain the settlements permanently?

  • How much is it influenced by issues of resource use, particularly water supplies, and retaining political control over the Palestinians?

It is probably safe to say that the issue is much more complicated than either “Israel is just stealing whatever territory it can get its hands on” or “Israel is just doing what it has a perfect right to do and cannot possibly survive without doing.” Exactly where on the scale the needle falls between those two extremes, though, I don’t know.

Here’s a BBC Story

Wonderful :rolleyes:

Right now I’m finding it a little hard to believe that Israel is going to forcibly remove about 147,500 Jewish settlers from the West Bank. The would go far beyond the Barak plan and would be cause for considerable optimism. Even so, the 6 settlements that remain are smack in ther middle of the WB and would be disruptive to any attempt to create a Palestnian state, unlike ones that hug the border.

No one mentioned that Sharon in the past had a big role in setting up and helping those settlements to exist. Its all about occupying the “Holy Land”.

I saw part of a recent TV program and was amazed at the footage I saw. Israeli “settlers” live in houses cut off by fences and barricades - they have walkways that they can use to go from place to place that are fenced off from the Palistinians. I watched a bit of this thinking “what’s the point?”


Water resources and fertile land are highly sought after in the region. The settlements are placed so that, if the borders were redrawn according to this map, Israel would take just 25% of the actual land, but that land comprises 80% of the fertile land and 65% of the water resources in the whole of the West Bank.

It would make the Palestinian state non-viable. The further away from the Green Line the proposals stray, the further away lasting peace would seem to be.

I think to come at this from an impartial view, you first have to see that the West Bank is contested territory – occupied already grants the argument to the Palestinian side.

What is normally called the Green line – the pre June 67 border, is actually the January 1949 cease fire line. When the UN divided up Palestine in 47, and the British pulled out in May 48, surrounding Arab countries and local Palestinian leaders rejected the partition and invaded, rightly or wrongly. By invading and trying to destroying the new state of Israel, one could argue that the Arab/Palestinian side voided the partition plan. They preferred war and they did not win it.

An cease fire was signed in Jan 49, but no Arab country until Egypt in 79 signed a peace treaty that ended the state of war. After Israel pre-emptively attacked Egypt in June 67, after Egypt massed troops on the border, closed an international waterway, and declared the intention to invade, Syria and Jordan attacked Israel. In other words, the Jan 49 cease-fire broke down. One could say that the cease fire line was no longer valid.

The Israeli labor government up until May 77 generally continued to treat the Jan 49 cease fire line as an international border, even though the Arab side never recognized it. (The Labor govt built some settlements on the West Bank in out of the way places). When the Begin/Likud govt came to power in May 77, Menachem Begin’s reasoning went basically as I have outlined it: You never recognized us or any border, you violated the cease-fire and reopened the war, and you lost again. Now we have the contested land and we are going to settle it.

I don’t think it is smart for Israel to keep settlements in Arab populated areas, but since the Arabs never recognized any international border along the west bank and would have destroyed Israel had they been able, one can hardly criticize Israel for also not recognizing the cease fire line that the other side never recognized, and for taking advantage of the fact that they won the war that other side began.

Good on you for trying to be impartial, but I think your final judgement falls heavily on the Israeli side.

Your arguments, as I understand them:

  • There was never a solid and recognized border along the “Green Line”, merely a 1949-1967 ceasefire line.
  • Arab parties started the war in 1967 and thus rendered this ceasefire line moot
  • Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in 67 and thus has the right to settle, or at least the right to contest ownership of the West Bank and Gaza.

I hope I understand these correctly. Even based on this version of events, which could be disputed till the cows come home, I don’t get why you believe that this should give Israel any right to settle in and effectively annex areas which were already heavily populated by Palestinians. Why doesn’t Israel, in your 1967-conquest reasoning, also have the right to settle the Golan Heights, all of the Sinai, most of Lebanon, and the parts of Jordan they’ve raided?

One might argue that the Green Line is merely a fiction, disrespected by both sides. Yet if it’s a fiction, it’s a convenient one, a nice clear line separating “Israel” and “Palestine”, and as such is the natural baseline of any realistic two-state solution to the perpetual crisis. Settlements beyond the Green Line merely make an already complex situation even more confusing and make a final peace deal more remote.

“Even based on this version of events, which could be disputed till the cows come home, I don’t get why you believe that this should give Israel any right to settle in and effectively annex areas which were already heavily populated by Palestinians. Why doesn’t Israel, in your 1967-conquest reasoning, also have the right to settle the Golan Heights, all of the Sinai, most of Lebanon, and the parts of Jordan they’ve raided”
I don’t this version of events could be disputed – they are history.

What can be disputed is whether Israel has a “right” or not to settle the disputed territories. I was responding the first post, where Brain Glutton asked “why” Israeli was settling the west bank. “Why” can include several notions: what motivation, what justification, what goal, etc.

Assuming that “justification” is part of “why,” I wanted to present what the Israeli justification is. One does not have to agree with it to understand it. As I wrote, I think it is unwise, terribly so, for Israel to make settlements in heavily populated Arab areas.

Regarding Sinai, Golan, Lebanon, etc. In the history of politics and politics by other means (warfare), land changes owners constantly. The current map of the middle east is largely a French and British fabrication, their dissecting the Ottoman empire that they defeated along with the other Central Powers in WWI. There is no “real” map of the middle east, unless you are arguing from a Platonic or scriptural sense. If the Arabs had won any of their wars with Israel, our entire discussion here would be academic, as there would be no Israel and nothing to dispute. Put simply, if Israel had the political will and military might to keep some of the Sinai, the Golan southern Lebanon, gained in defensive war, one could certainly say they had a “right,” as least has much right and probably more than the United States has on California, lets say.

You could very well be right that the Green Line (Jan 49 armistice) serves as a good base line, and Israeli settlements that extend far beyond that line will serve to an impediment to peace. I believe that the current Israeli position is that the real impediment to peace is Palestinian truculence. As the Mitchel report shows, at the time of the Barak - Clinton proposal, the disagreements were down to yards and city blocks, hardly a good reason or time to start the intifada.

The Palestinians can certainly claim, justifiably, that the Green line is not a base line for negotiations, but the only acceptable ending place. The Israelis can justifiably and certainly not agree. That is why we have warfare now.

If the settlements continue to exist, then the idea of a Palestinian state will always remain a joke.

The settlements carve any such state up into isolated chunks that are blocked off from each other by all sorts of disruptive features, from special highways that only Irsaelis can use at various times and which mean that Palestinians have to wait for hours sometimes at various checkpoints just to travel around in their own “state.” This means that as long as the settlements exist, Irsraeli troops will be all over the area, Irsraelis will ultimately control inter-state commerce and travel, and basically the state wont be a real state in any full sense of the word.

I don’t really have an opinion over who has a right to what land. But I don’t see how anyone can delude themselves into thinking that the settlements are a viable long term feature of a lasting peace.

I remember a long interview of an hard-liner, religious fundamentalist settler in an unstable area close to Hebron. When asked why she didn’t at least send her childrento live with relatives in a safest place within Israel proper (one could hear automatic weapon fire in the the background during the interview), she would answer that his children were too “soldiers” fighting for the ultimate goal of restoring Eretz Israel, and that they had the same duty to stay than a member of Tsahal (or even more so).
On the other end of the scale, AFAIK, there are settlers who came just to get a housing they could afford.

And by the way, still refering to your settlers living surrounded by fences and barricades, and about Hebron : large parts of the old city of Hebron have been emptied of its palestinian population (either forcefully, or due to harassment by the settlers, or said fences, check points, walls, etc…making impossible to live a normal life) as a result of the measures taken to insure the safety of an extremely low number of Israeli settlers.

According to the article I’m reading, there were around 40 000 palestinians living in the old city of Hebron before the intifada, while the current population is estimated between 3 000 and 9 000. IOW, more than 30 000 palestinians had to leave in order to protect around 200 settlers living permanently in the old town. It doesn’t seem to make sense to me, even from an Israeli point of view, given the likely costs and risks involved.

The goal of these settlers is apparently to have the palestinians leaving and to de facto connect the part of the old town they live in to other settlements around Hebron, in order to eventually have the whole area annexed to Israel.

Minor quibble - the Palestinians did not invade Israel/the Jewish mandate in 1948. They rejected the mandate and the surrounding Arab countries invaded. At that time even within the UN specified Israeli borders the majority of the population was Palestinian. (Source: One Palestine Complete by Tom Segev)

There are several reasons for the ongoing settlement issues:

A need for inexpensive residential real estate - especially with immigration from post cold-war former soviet bloc. (whether it is still inexpensive when government subsidies and costs are included is a different story, but from the point of view of the settlers, it is probably cheaper than living in towns or suburbs in Israel proper.

A need to control the west bank - given the lack of a consensus as to what to do with it. Granted this is a vicious cycle as each Israeli move to improve security and control by building settlements in the West Bank provokes the Palestinians, requiring additional security measures on the part of the Israelis.

A need to buy off certain religious parties - the two major parties each receive slightly less than half of the electorates votes. Whichever party gets a plurality has to form a coalition with smaller parties which can leverage their platforms into prominence.

Settlers vote, too.

Desire for buffer territory - if Jordan is hostile Israel would prefer to have at least a little space between the enemy’s jump-off points and the Mediterranean.

No good way to get rid of them.