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Policy Analysis 12 September, 2012

A New Wave of Settlement Building in the West Bank: Israel’s Settlers’ Government Seizes Palestinian Land

The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


Introduction[1]

Settlement building is a systematic practice and central feature of Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank. Through this multi-purpose colonialist practice, Israel seeks to expand beyond the boundaries gained by the Jewish state during the 1948 Nakba. To achieve this, the State of Israel seeks to seize and annex the greatest amount of land with the least amount of inhabitants.

Today, the number of official settlements in the West Bank is 144,[2] including sixteen in Jerusalem. In addition to this, more than 100 "unauthorized settler outposts" are scattered around the occupied West Bank, as well as in the heart of Arab quarters and neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. By mid-2012, 550,000 Israeli settlers inhabited these settlements and settler outposts, with over 200,000 settlers in Jerusalem alone (Jerusalem was unilaterally annexed by the State of Israel in 1967).[3]

Since Benjamin Netanyahu's election as prime minister in March 2009, however, the coalition government effectively became a "‘settlers' government" par excellence, particularly since the inclusion of far right political parties. This is reflected in the unprecedented speed of settlement building. Today, the Palestinian people are, in effect, singled out and isolated, and their property is threatened with systematic confiscation. In expanding its settlers' activities in the occupied territories, Israel capitalized on the international community's preoccupation with the "Arab Spring" and its ramifications, as well as the Palestinian leadership's inability to come up with any unified decisions or a strategy of resistance.

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[1] This analysis was written prior to the Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's dismissal of Cairo's top two generals and his quashing of a military order that had curbed the new leader's powers.

[2] For more on "settler outposts" in the West Bank and the role of the Israeli government in encouraging their development, as well as their establishment on privately-owned Palestinian lands, refer to the [Talia] Sasson Report (Jerusalem:2005).

[3] Figures indicating the number of settlements and Israeli settlers inhabiting them are taken from various sources, including the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (www.cbs.gov.il/shnaton62/st02_13.pdf); the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_pcbs/PressRelease/settlmt2011a.pdf); Peace Now (online) (www.peacenow.org.il/node/297); and the Ir Amim website (www.ir-amim.org.il/?categoryID=464).