Illegal settlement in the West Bank continues

Throughout the Intifada, illegal Zionist settlements in Jerusalem and on the West Bank have continued to expand in defiance of the 1993 Oslo peace accords. About 40% of the West Bank is now taken up by Israeli infrastructure. This includes settlements, outposts, network of roads, roadblocks, checkpoints, military bases, nature reserves, closed military areas and the Apartheid Wall.

Today, about 450,000 Israeli settlers live in the Occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem – 57% in East Jerusalem. Between 1987 and 2007 the settler population increased by 150%, a rate of growth three times that of the Israeli population and twice that of the 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank. There are 149 settlements, nine industrial sites and over 100 outposts, of which 60% have been established since 2001.

A July 2007 report by Peace Now reveals that 90% of the settlements go beyond the area the Zionist authorities have illegally assigned them, an area which already constitutes more than 40% of the West Bank. Of this, only 3% is actually built up. Thus Ma’ali Adumim, the largest of all settlements, is 76% empty and unused, so that although its population is less than a tenth of Tel Aviv’s, the area it covers is almost the same (48 sq km). In the Jordan Valley the disproportion is greater. For example, the area assigned to Kibbutz Mitzpeh Shalem, with a population of 180, is over 35 sq kms. In most cases settlements are built on private Palestinian land.

Israel provides material incentives for Israelis to live in these settlements. These include housing subsidies, preferential loans and lower taxes. It has also created a network of roads which carve up the Occupied West Bank and link these settlements to one another and to Israel. Palestinians are either prevented from using these roads or have restricted access controlled by checkpoints. Along with the Apartheid Wall, these roads are a measure to achieve Zionist domination of the West Bank whilst forcing the Palestinian population into impoverished ghettoes.

In order to complete their domination, Zionists have seized control of the natural resources of the West Bank, of which the most vital is water. 80% of the mountain aquifers supplying Israelis and Palestinians are located under the West Bank. However, 83% of the available water is used for the sole benefit of Israeli cities and settlements. Israeli water consumption is 350 litres per capita per day, compared to 60 litres per capita per day for Palestinians in the West Bank. The water consumption of Palestinians in the West Bank is 40 litres less than the minimum global standards set by the World Health Organisation.

The strategy of the Zionists is to continue the process of colonising the most fertile parts of the West Bank until they feel strong enough to annex them. PA collusion is giving them the breathing space they need to flout previous agreements and UN resolutions.
Manal Darwish

FRFI 199 October / November 2007