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The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية aḍ-Ḍaffah l-Ġarbiyyah, Hebrew: הגדה המערבית, HaGadah HaMa'aravit, also Hebrew: יהודה ושומרון Yehuda ve-Shomron ( Judea and Samaria)) is a landlocked territory, located in Western Asia. The West Bank shares boundaries ( demarcated by the Jordanian-Israeli armistice of 1949) to the west, north, and south with the state of Israel, and to the east, across the Jordan River, with Kingdom of Jordan. The West Bank also contains a significant coastline along the western bank of the Dead Sea.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has a land area of 5,640 km2 and 220 km2 water, the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea. It has an estimated population of 2,622,544 (June 2012). More than 80 percent, about 2,600,000, are Palestinian Arabs, and approximately 500,000 are Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank, including about 192,000 in East Jerusalem, in Israeli settlements. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
From 1517 through 1917, the area now known as the West Bank was under Ottoman rule as part of the provinces of Syria. At the 1920 San Remo conference, the victorious Allied powers (France, UK, USA, etc.) allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine. Following the Second World War, the United Nations passed the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine, which aimed to establish two states within Mandate Palestine. The Resolution designated the territory described as "the hill country of Samaria and Judea" (including what is now known as the "West Bank") as part of the proposed Arab state, but following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War this area was captured by Transjordan (renamed Jordan in 1949). "West Bank" or "Cisjordan" became the name for the area west of the Jordan River, as "East Bank" or "Transjordan" designated the area east of the river. The interim boundary between Israel and Jordan's West Bank was defined in the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Jordan ruled over the West Bank from 1948 until 1967, annexing it in 1950. Jordan's claim was never formally recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom.
In June 1967, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were captured by Israel as a result of the Six-Day War. With the exception of East Jerusalem and the former Israeli-Jordanian no man's land, the West Bank was not annexed by Israel but has remained under Israeli military control and is referred to as Judea and Samaria Area by Israel. Although the 1974 Arab League summit resolution at Rabat designated the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to the area until 1988, when it severed all administrative and legal ties with the West Bank and eventually stripped West Bank Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship.
Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, parts of the West Bank are under full or partial control of the Palestinian Authority. Though 164 nations refer to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as “ Occupied Palestinian Territory”, the state of Israel insists that only territories captured in war from “an established and recognized sovereign” should be considered occupied territories. After the 2007 split between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank areas under Palestinian control are an exclusive part of the Palestinian Authority, while the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas.
The name West Bank in Palestine, a translation of the Arabic term ad-difa’a al-gharbiya, was coined by the Jordanians after the territory, conquered by Jordan's Arab Legion in 1948, was annexed to Transjordan, forming the new Kingdom of Jordan in 1949–50. This annexation by Jordan was only recognized by a handful of countries, among them Britain and Pakistan; most international bodies, the Arab League, and most Palestinians rejected the legality of the Jordanian annexation. The term was chosen to differentiate the "West bank of the River Jordan", the newly annexed territory, from the " East Bank" of this river, Transjordan. Before the end of World War I and the creation of the British Mandate of Palestine (that then led into the modern history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) the last state to control the land today referred to as the West Bank was the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Syria. The Ottoman Empire administrative region that included the modern West Bank was referred to by the Ottomans as the Beirut Vilayet, and the specific district that included the modern West Bank was known as the Sanjak of Nablus. The government of Israel, that has occupied the West Bank since 1967, refers to the area by the terminology, "Judea and Samaria".
The neo-Latin name Cisjordan or Cis-Jordan (literally "in front of the River Jordan" or "on this side of the [River] Jordan") is the usual name for the territory in the Romance languages and Hungarian. The analogous Transjordan (literally "behind of the River Jordan") has historically been used to designate the region now comprising the state of Jordan which lies on the "other side" of the Jordan River. In English, the name Cisjordan is also occasionally used to designate the entire region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, particularly in the historical context of the British Mandate and earlier times. The use of Cisjordan to refer to the smaller region discussed in this article, while common in scholarly fields including archaeology, is rare in general English usage; the name West Bank is standard usage for this geo-political entity in English and some of the other Germanic languages. For the low-lying area immediately west of the Jordan, the name Jordan Valley is used instead.
The region now known as the "West Bank" represents portion of the former British Mandate for Palestine (1920–47). It was designated as part of a proposed Arab state by the United Nations (UN) partition plan for Palestine in 1947. The plan recommended partition of the British Mandate into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally administered enclave of Jerusalem, a more broad region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State.
Upon the departure of the British forces in May 1948 and the proclamation of the State of Israel, the armies of five Arab countries entered Palestine. In the ensuing Arab-Israeli War the West Bank was occupied by Jordanian and Iraqi forces. In the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the West Bank was declared part of Jordanian territory and defined the interim boundary between Israel and Jordan.
Jordan occupied the West Bank from 1948 until 1967. Formally annexing it on April 24, 1950. Jordan's claim was never recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
The idea of an independent Palestinian state was not raised by the Arab populations there at the time, due to lack of political representation. King Abdullah of Jordan was crowned King of Jerusalem and granted Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Jordanian citizenship.
During the 1950s, there was a significant influx of Palestinian refugees and violence together with Israeli reprisal raids across the "Green Line".
In May 1967 Egypt ordered out U.N. peacekeeping troops and re-militarized the Sinai peninsula, and commenced an economic blockade of Israel through the straits of Tiran at the same time. Fearing an Egyptian attack, the government of Levi Eshkol attempted to restrict any confrontation to Egypt alone. In particular it did whatever it could to avoid fighting Jordan in a two-front war. However, "carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism", on 30 May 1967 King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed a mutual defense treaty in which the two countries agreed to consider "any armed attack on either state or its forces as an attack on both". On 5 June, the Israel Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt which began what came to be known as the Six Day War.
Jordan soon began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Despite this, Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, " the die was cast". On the evening of 5 June the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted. Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Government House was captured, which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem. On 6 June Dayan encircled the city, but, fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, he ordered his troops not to go in. However, upon hearing that the U.N. was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city. After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on 7 June.
No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. However, when intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river, Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank. Over the next two days, the IDF swiftly captured the rest of the West Bank and blew up the Abdullah and Hussein Bridges over the Jordan, thereby severing the West Bank from the East. According to Narkis:
First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem's security emerged. The end result was something that no one had planned.
The Arab League's Khartoum conference in September declared continuing belligerency, and stated the league's principles of "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it". In November 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously adopted, calling for "the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" to be achieved by "the application of both the following principles:" "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" (see semantic dispute) and: "Termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon entered into consultations with the UN Special representative over the implementation of 242. The text did not refer to the PLO or to any Palestinian representative because none was recognized at that time.
Until 1974, Jordan demanded the restoration of its control over the West Bank. In 1988, Jordan's King Hussein announced "full legal and administrative disengagement from the West Bank." On July 28, 1988, King Hussein announced the cessation of a $1.3 billion development program for the West Bank. Over the next few days, he formally dissolved Parliament, ending West Bank representation in the legislature, and severed all administrative and legal ties with West Bank.
As a result of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process agreement in 1995, the Palestine Authority has been given territorial administration over the West Bank.
Non-Member Observer State Status
By September 2012, with their application for full membership stalled due to the inability of Security Council members to 'make a unanimous recommendation', the Palestine Authority had decided to pursue an upgrade in status from "observer entity" to "non-member observer state". On November 27 it was announced that the appeal had been officially made, and would be put to a vote in the General Assembly on November 29, where their status upgrade was expected to be supported by a majority of states. In addition to granting Palestine "non-member observer state status", the draft resolution "expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favourably the application submitted on 23 September 2011 by the State of Palestine for admission to full membership in the United Nations, endorses the two state solution based on the pre-1967 borders, and stresses the need for an immediate resumption of negotiations between the two parties."
On Thursday, November 29, 2012, In a 138-9 vote (with 41 abstaining) General Assembly resolution 67/19 passed, upgrading Palestine to "non-member observer state" status in the United Nations. The new status equates Palestine's with that of the Holy See.The change in status was described by The Independent as "de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine".
The vote was a historic benchmark for the sovereign State of Palestine and its citizens, whilst it was a diplomatic setback for Israel and the United States. Status as an observer state in the UN will allow the State of Palestine to join treaties and specialised UN agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Law of the Seas Treaty and the International Criminal Court. It shall permit Palestine to claim legal rights over its territorial waters and air space as a sovereign state recognised by the UN. It shall also provide the citizens of Palestine with the right to sue for control of the territory that is rightfully theirs in the International Court of Justice and with the legal right to bring war-crimes charges, mainly those relating to Israel's illegal occupation of the State of Palestine, against Israel in the International Criminal Court.
The UN has permitted Palestine to title its representative office to the UN as 'The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations', and Palestine has started to re-title its name accordingly on postal stamps, official documents and passports, whilst it has instructed its diplomats to officially represent ' The State of Palestine', as opposed to the ' Palestine National Authority'. Additionally, on 17 December 2012, UN Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon decided that "the designation of 'State of Palestine' shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents", thus recognising the PLO-proclaimed State of Palestine as being sovereign over the territories of Palestine and its citizens under international law.
As of February 2013, 131 (67.9%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognised the State of Palestine as sovereign over both West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Many of the countries that do not recognise the State of Palestine nevertheless recognise the PLO as the 'representative of the Palestinian people'
The West Bank has an area of 5,628 square kilometres (2,173 sq mi), which comprises 21,2% of former Mandatory Palestine (excluding Jordan) and has generally rugged mountainous terrain. The total length of the land boundaries of the region are 404 km. The terrain is mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in west, but somewhat barren in the east. The elevation span between the shoreline of the Dead Sea at -408 m to the highest point at Mount Nabi Yunis, at 1,030 m (3,379 ft) above sea level. The area of West Bank is landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel's coastal aquifers.
There are few natural resources in the area except the highly arable land, which comprises 27% of the land area of the region. It is mostly used as permanent pastures (32% of arable land) and seasonal agricultural uses (40%). Forests and woodland comprise just 1%, with no permanent crops.
The climate in the West Bank is mostly Mediterranean, slightly cooler at elevated areas compared with the shoreline, west to the area. In the east, the West Bank includes the Judean Desert and the shoreline of the Dead Sea - both with dry and hot climate.
The 1993 Oslo Accords declared the final status of the West Bank to be subject to a forthcoming settlement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Following these interim accords, Israel withdrew its military rule from some parts of the West Bank, which was divided into three administrative divisions of the Oslo Accords:
|Area||Security||Civil Admin||% of WB
|% of WB
Area A, 2.7%, full civil control of the Palestinian Authority, comprises Palestinian towns, and some rural areas away from Israeli settlements in the north (between Jenin, Nablus, Tubas, and Tulkarm), the south (around Hebron), and one in the centre south of Salfit. Area B, 25.2%, adds other populated rural areas, many closer to the centre of the West Bank. Area C contains all the Israeli settlements, roads used to access the settlements, buffer zones (near settlements, roads, strategic areas, and Israel), and almost all of the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert.
Areas A and B are themselves divided among 227 separate areas (199 of which are smaller than 2 square kilometres (1 sq mi)) that are separated from one another by Israeli-controlled Area C. Areas A, B, and C cross the 11 Governorates used as administrative divisions by the Palestinian National Authority, Israel, and the IDF and named after major cities. The mainly open areas of Area C were to be handed over to the Palestinians by 1999 under the Oslo Accords. This was never done.
According to B'tselem, while the vast majority of the Palestinian population lives in areas A and B, the vacant land available for construction in dozens of villages and towns across the West Bank is situated on the margins of the communities and defined as area C.
An assessment by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in 2007 found that approximately 40% of the West Bank was taken up by Israeli infrastructure. The infrastructure, consisting of settlements, the barrier, military bases and closed military areas, Israeli declared nature reserves and the roads that accompany them is off-limits or tightly controlled to Palestinians.
In June 2011, the Independent Commission for Human Rights published a report that found that Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an “almost systematic campaign” of human rights abuse by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities, with the security forces of the PA and Hamas being responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.
Areas annexed by Israel
Through the Jerusalem Law, Israel extended its administrative control over East Jerusalem. This has often been interpreted as tantamount to an official annexation, though Ian Lustick, in reviewing the legal status of Israeli measures, has argued that no such annexation ever took place. The Palestinian residents have legal permanent residency status. Rejecting the Jerusalem Law, the UN Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 478, declaring that the law was "null and void". Although permanent residents are permitted, if they wish, to receive Israeli citizenship if they meet certain conditions including swearing allegiance to the State and renouncing any other citizenship, most Palestinians did not apply for Israeli citizenship for political reasons. There are various possible reasons as to why the West Bank had not been annexed to Israel after its capture in 1967. The government of Israel has not formally confirmed an official reason; however, historians and analysts have established a variety of such, most of them demographic. Among those most commonly cited have been:
- Reluctance to award its citizenship to an overwhelming number of a potentially hostile population whose allies were sworn to the destruction of Israel.
- To ultimately exchange land for peace with neighbouring states
- Fear that the population of ethnic Arabs, including Israeli citizens of Palestinian ethnicity, would outnumber the Jewish Israelis west of the Jordan River.
- The disputed legality of annexation under the Fourth Geneva Convention
The importance of demographic concerns to some significant figures in Israel's leadership was illustrated when Avraham Burg, a former Knesset Speaker and former chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, wrote in The Guardian in September 2003,
- "Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish state – not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish."
As of December 2010, 327,750 Israelis live in the 121 settlements in the West Bank officially recognised by the Israeli government, 192,000 Israelis live in settlements in East Jerusalem. There are approximately 100 further settlement outposts which are not officially recognized by the Israeli government and are illegal under Israeli law, but have been provided with infrastructure, water, sewage, and other services by the authorities.
The international consensus (including the United Nations) is that all Israeli settlements on the West Bank beyond the Green Line border are illegal under international law. The European Union and the Arab League consider the settlements to be illegal. The majority of legal scholars also hold the settlements to violate international law, however individuals including Julius Stone, and Eugene Rostow have argued that they are legal under international law, on a number of different grounds. Immediately after the 1967 war Theodor Meron, legal counsel of Israel's Foreign Ministry advised Israeli ministers in a "top secret" memo that any policy of building settlements across occupied territories violated international law and would "contravene the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention".
The UN Security Council has issued several non-binding resolutions addressing the issue of the settlements. Typical of these is UN Security Council resolution 446 which states [the] practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity, and it calls on Israel as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention held in Geneva on 5 December 2001 called upon "the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to refrain from perpetrating any violation of the Convention." The High Contracting Parties reaffirmed "the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof."
On 30 December 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued an order requiring approval by both the Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Defense Minister of all settlement activities (including planning) in the West Bank.
The Haaretz published on December 2005 about demolition of Palestinian outposts in Bil'in, the demolitions sparked a political debate as according to PeaceNow it was a double standard ("After what happened today in Bil'in, there is no reason that the state should defend its decision to continue the construction" credited to Michael Sfard).
In January 2012, the European Union approved the "Area C and Palestinian state building" report. The report said Palestinian presence in Area C has been continuously underminded by Israel and that state building efforts in Area C of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the EU were of "utmost importance in order to support the creation of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state". The EU will support various projects to "support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence".
In May 2012, a petition was filed to the Israeli Supreme Court about the legality of more 15 Palestinian outposts and Palestinian building in "Area C". The cases were filed by the non-profit Regavim: National Land Protection Trust.
The petition was one of 30 different petitions with the common ground of illegal land takeover and illegal construction and use of natural resources. some of the petitions (27) had been set for trials and the majority received a verdict.
Ynet News stated on 11 Jan 2013 that a group of 200 Palestinians with unknown number of foreign activists created an outpost named Bab al-Shams ("Gate of the Sun"), contains 50 tents
Ynet News stated on the 18 Jan 2013 that Palestinian activists built an outpost on a disputed area in Beit Iksa, where Israel plans to construct part of the separation fence in the Jerusalem vicinity while the Palestinians claim that the area belongs to the residents of Beit Iksa. named Bab al-Krama
West Bank barrier
The Israeli West Bank barrier is a physical barrier ordered for construction by the Israeli Government, consisting of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 metres (197 ft) wide exclusion area (90%) and up to 8 metres (26 ft) high concrete walls (10%) (although in most areas the wall is not nearly that high). It is located mainly within the West Bank, partly along the 1949 Armistice line, or " Green Line" between the West Bank and Israel. As of April 2006 the length of the barrier as approved by the Israeli government is 703 kilometers (437 mi) long. Approximately 58.4% has been constructed, 8.96% is under construction, and construction has not yet begun on 33% of the barrier. The space between the barrier and the green line is a closed military zone known as the Seam Zone, cutting off 8.5% of the West Bank and encompassing dozens of villages and tens of thousands of Palestinians.
The barrier generally runs along or near the 1949 Jordanian-Israeli armistice/Green Line, but diverges in many places to include on the Israeli side several of the highly populated areas of Jewish settlements in the West Bank such as East Jerusalem, Ariel, Gush Etzion, Immanuel, Karnei Shomron, Givat Ze'ev, Oranit, and Maale Adumim.
Supporters of the barrier claim it is necessary for protecting Israeli civilians from Palestinian attacks, which increased significantly during the Al-Aqsa Intifada; it has helped reduce incidents of terrorism by 90% from 2002 to 2005; over a 96% reduction in terror attacks in the six years ending in 2007, though Israel's State Comptroller has acknowledged that most of the suicide bombers crossed into Israel through existing checkpoints. Its supporters claim that the onus is now on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism.
Opponents claim the barrier is an illegal attempt to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security, violates international law, has the intent or effect to pre-empt final status negotiations, and severely restricts Palestinians who live nearby, particularly their ability to travel freely within the West Bank and to access work in Israel, thereby undermining their economy. According to a 2007 World Bank report, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has destroyed the Palestinian economy, in violation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. All major roads (with a total length of 700 km) are basically off-limits to Palestinians, making it impossible to do normal business. Economic recovery would reduce Palestinian dependence on international aid by one billion dollars per year.
In December 2007, an official Census conducted by the Palestinian Authority found that the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) was 2,345,000. However, the World Bank and American-Israeli Demographic Research Group identified a 32% discrepancy between first-grade enrollment statistics documented by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)’ 2007 projections, with questions also raised about the PCBS’ growth assumptions for the period 1997–2003. Several media outlets have suggested that PCBS data inflate the 2007 census figures by 30%, contradicting both the Palestinian Ministry of Education's enrollment data and actual emigration growth documented by Israeli Border Police, which in 2006 observed 25,000 Palestinian Arabs emigrating from Palestinian Authority-controlled territories. These data sets suggest that the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank in 2007 was approximately 1.5 million.
There are 350,143 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, as well as around 210,000 living in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. There are also small ethnic groups, such as the Samaritans living in and around Nablus, numbering in the hundreds.
As of October 2007, around 23,000 Palestinians in the West Bank work in Israel every day with another 9,200 working in Israeli settlements. In addition, around 10,000 Palestinian traders from the West Bank are allowed to travel every day into Israel.
In 2008, approximately 30% of Palestinians or 754,263 persons living in the West Bank were refugees or descendants of refugees from villages and towns located in what became Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War according to UNRWA statistics. A 2011 EU report noted that between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians used to live in the Jordan Valley, most of which is in Area C, in 1967, but demolition of Palestinian homes and prevention of new buildings has seen the number drop to 56,000. In a similar period, the Jewish population in Area C has grown from 1,200 to 310,000.
Major population centers
The most densely populated part of the region is a mountainous spine, running north-south, where the cities of Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Jenin, Bethlehem, Hebron and Yattah are located as well as the Israeli settlements of Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Betar Illit. Ramallah, although relatively mid in population compared to other major cities as Hebron, Nablus and Jenin, serves as an economic and political centre for the Palestinians. Near Ramallah the new city of Rawabi is under construction. Jenin in the extreme north and is the capital of north of the West Bank and is on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley. Modi'in Illit, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm are in the low foothills adjacent to the Israeli Coastal Plain, and Jericho and Tubas are situated in the Jordan Valley, north of the Dead Sea.
The population of the West Bank is 75 percent Muslim while 17 percent is Jewish. The remaining 8 percent are Christians and others.
After the signing of the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into 11 governorates under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority. Since 2007 there are two governments claiming to be the legitimate government of the Palestinian National Authority, one based in the West Bank and one based in the Gaza Strip.
|Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate||548,018||844|
| Jerusalem Governorate
(including Israeli annexed East Jerusalem)
Israeli administrative districts
The West Bank is further divided into 8 administrative regions: Menashe ( Jenin area), HaBik'a ( Jordan Valley), Shomron ( Shechem area, known in Arabic as Nablus), Efrayim ( Tulkarm area), Binyamin ( Ramallah/ al-Bireh area), Maccabim ( Maccabim area), Etzion (Bethlehem area) and Yehuda ( Hebron area).
Transportation and communication
The West Bank has 5,147 km (3,198 mi) of roads, all of which are paved.
In response to shootings by Palestinians, some highways, especially those leading to Israeli settlements, were completely inaccessible to cars with Palestinian license plates, while many other roads were restricted only to public transportation and to Palestinians who have special permits from Israeli authorities. Due to numerous shooting assaults targeting Israeli vehicles, the IDF bars Israelis from using most of the original roads in the West Bank.
At certain times, Israel maintained more than 600 checkpoints or roadblocks in the region. As such, movement restrictions were also placed on main roads traditionally used by Palestinians to travel between cities, and such restrictions are still blamed for poverty and economic depression in the West Bank. Since the beginning of 2005, there has been some amelioration of these restrictions. According to reports, "Israel has made efforts to improve transport contiguity for Palestinians travelling in the West Bank. It has done this by constructing underpasses and bridges (28 of which have been constructed and 16 of which are planned) that link Palestinian areas separated from each other by Israeli settlements and bypass roads" and by removal of checkpoints and physical obstacles, or by not reacting to Palestinian removal or natural erosion of other obstacles. "The impact (of these actions) is most felt by the easing of movement between villages and between villages and the urban centres."
However, some obstacles encircling major Palestinian urban hubs, particularly Nablus and Hebron, have remained. In addition, the IDF prohibits Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian-controlled land (Area A).
As of August 2007, a divided highway is currently under construction that will pass through the West Bank. The highway has a concrete wall dividing the two sides, one designated for Israeli vehicles, the other for Palestinian. The wall is designed to allow Palestinians to pass north-south through Israeli-held land and facilitate the building of additional Jewish settlements in the Jerusalem neighbourhood.
As of February 2012, a plan for 475-kilometer rail network, establishing 11 new rail lines in West Bank, was confirmed by Israeli Transportation Ministry. The West Bank network would include one line running through Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim, Bethlehem and Hebron. Another would provide service along the Jordanian border from Eilat to the Dead Sea, Jericho and Beit She'an and from there toward Haifa in the west and in also in a northeasterly direction. The proposed scheme also calls for shorter routes, such as between Nablus and Tul Karm in the West Bank, and from Ramallah to the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan.
The only airport in the West Bank is the Atarot Airport near Ramallah, but it has been closed since 2001. However, the airport is located within East Jerusalem, which Israel considers it part of its territory, although Israel's claims are not recognised by the majority of nations.
The Palestinian Paltel telecommunication companies provide communication services such as landline, cellular network and Internet in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dialling code +970 is used in the West Bank and all over the Palestinian territories. Until 2007, the Palestinian mobile market was monopolized by Jawwal. A new mobile operator for the territories launched in 2009 under the name of Wataniya Telecom. The number of Internet users increased from 35,000 in 2000 to 356,000 in 2010.
Radio and television
The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from an AM station in Ramallah on 675 kHz; numerous local privately owned stations are also in operation. Most Palestinian households have a radio and TV, and satellite dishes for receiving international coverage are widespread. Recently, PalTel announced and has begun implementing an initiative to provide ADSL broadband internet service to all households and businesses. Israel's cable television company HOT, satellite television provider ( DBS) Yes, AM and FM radio broadcast stations and public television broadcast stations all operate. Broadband internet service by Bezeq's ADSL and by the cable company are available as well. The Al-Aqsa Voice broadcasts from Dabas Mall in Tulkarem at 106.7 FM. The Al-Aqsa TV station shares these offices.
Seven Universities have been operating in the West Bank since 1967:
- Bethlehem University, a Roman Catholic institution of the Lasallian tradition partially funded by the Vatican, opened its doors in 1973.
- In 1975, Birzeit College (located in the town of Bir Zeit north of Ramallah) became Birzeit University after adding third- and fourth-year college-level programs.
- An-Najah College in Nablus likewise became An-Najah National University in 1977.
- Hebron University was established as College of Shari'a in 1971 and became Hebron University in 1980.
- Al-Quds University was founded in 1995, unifying several colleges and faculties in and around East Jerusalem.
- In 2000, the Arab American University – the only private university in the West Bank – was founded outside of Zababdeh, with the purpose of providing courses according to the American system of education.
- In 2007, the College of Judea and Samaria in the Israeli settlement Ariel upgraded itself to “Ariel University Centre of Samaria”. The name change was recognized by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2010, but so far the school does not have the same status as the accredited universities in Israel.
Most universities in the West Bank have politically active student bodies, and elections of student council officers are normally along party affiliations. Although the establishment of the universities was initially allowed by the Israeli authorities, some were sporadically ordered closed by the Israeli Civil Administration during the 1970s and 1980s to prevent political activities and violence against the IDF. Some universities remained closed by military order for extended periods during years immediately preceding and following the first Palestinian Intifada, but have largely remained open since the signing of the Oslo Accords despite the advent of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Second Intifada) in 2000.
The founding of Palestinian universities has greatly increased education levels among the population in the West Bank. According to a Birzeit University study, the percentage of Palestinians choosing local universities as opposed to foreign institutions has been steadily increasing; as of 1997, 41% of Palestinians with bachelor degrees had obtained them from Palestinian institutions. According to UNESCO, Palestinians are one of the most highly educated groups in the Middle East "despite often difficult circumstances". The literacy rate among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is 94,6% for 2009.
From 1517 to 1917 the West Bank was part of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, successor state to the Ottoman Empire, renounced its territorial claims in 1923 and the West Bank became part of the British Mandate for Palestine. During the Mandate period Britain had no right of sovereignty, which was held by the people under the mandate. In 1947 the UN General Assembly recommended that the area that became the West Bank become part of a future Arab state, but this proposal was opposed by the Arab states at the time. In 1949 Jordan occupied the West Bank and subsequently annexed it. However its claim was never recognized by the international community. In 1967 Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the Six-Day War. UN Security Council Resolution 242 that followed called for withdrawal from territories occupied in the conflict. Since 1979 the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the United States, the EU, the International Court of Justice, and the International Committee of the Red Cross refer to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as occupied Palestinian territory. General Assembly resolution 58/292 (17 May 2004) affirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to sovereignty over the area.
Both the International Court of Justice and the Supreme Court of Israel have ruled that the status of the West Bank is that of military occupation. In its 2004 advisory opinion the International Court of Justice concluded that:
The territories situated between the Green Line and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. Under customary international law, the Court observes, these were therefore occupied territories in which Israel had the status of occupying Power. Subsequent events in these territories have done nothing to alter this situation. The Court concludes that all these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and thatIsrael has continued to have the status of occupying Power.
In the same vein the Israeli Supreme Court stated in the 2004 Beit Sourik case that:
The general point of departure of all parties – which is also our point of departure – is that Israel holds the area in belligerent occupation (occupatio bellica)......The authority of the military commander flows from the provisions of public international law regarding belligerent occupation. These rules are established principally in the Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, The Hague, 18 October 1907 [hereinafter – the Hague Regulations]. These regulations reflect customary international law. The military commander’s authority is also anchored in IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949.
The executive branch of the Israeli government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has defined the West Bank as disputed territory, whose status can only be determined through negotiations. The Ministry says that occupied territories are territories captured in war from an established and recognized sovereign, and that since the West Bank wasn't under the legitimate and recognized sovereignty of any state prior to the Six-Day War, it shouldn't be considered an occupied territory.
The International Court of Justice ruling of 9 July 2004 however found that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is territory held by Israel under military occupation, regardless of its status prior to it coming under Israeli occupation and the Fourth Geneva convention applies de jure. The international community regards the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as territories occupied by Israel.
International law (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) prohibits "transfers of the population of an occupying power to occupied territories", incurring a responsibility on the part of Israel's government to not settle Israeli citizens in the West Bank.
Some countries recognize the State of Palestine and consider the West Bank to be territory of that state.
The future status of the West Bank, together with the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean shore, has been the subject of negotiation between the Palestinians and Israelis, although the current Road Map for Peace, proposed by the " Quartet" comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, envisions an independent Palestinian state in these territories living side by side with Israel (see also proposals for a Palestinian state). However, the "Road Map" states that in the first phase, Palestinians must end all attacks on Israel, whereas Israel must dismantle outposts. Since neither condition has been met since the Road Map was "accepted", by all sides, final negotiations have not yet begun on major political differences.
The Palestinian Authority believes that the West Bank ought to be a part of their sovereign nation, and that the presence of Israeli military control is a violation of their right to Palestinian Authority rule. The United Nations calls the West Bank and Gaza Strip Israeli-occupied territories. The United States State Department also refers to the territories as occupied. Many Israelis and their supporters prefer the term disputed territories, because they claim part of the territory for themselves, and state the land has not, in 2000 years, been sovereign.
Israel argues that its presence is justified because:
- Israel's eastern border has never been defined by anyone;
- The disputed territories have not been part of any state since the time of the Ottoman Empire;
- According to the Camp David Accords with Egypt, the 1994 agreement with Jordan and the Oslo Accords with the PLO, the final status of the territories would be fixed only when there was a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinian public opinion opposes Israeli military and settler presence on the West Bank as a violation of their right to statehood and sovereignty. Israeli opinion is split into a number of views:
- Complete or partial withdrawal from the West Bank in hopes of peaceful coexistence in separate states (sometimes called the " land for peace" position); (In a 2003 poll, 76% of Israelis supported a peace agreement based on that principle).
- Maintenance of a military presence in the West Bank to reduce Palestinian terrorism by deterrence or by armed intervention, while relinquishing some degree of political control;
- Annexation of the West Bank while considering the Palestinian population with Palestinian Authority citizenship with Israeli residence permit as per the Elon Peace Plan;
- Annexation of the West Bank and assimilation of the Palestinian population to fully fledged Israeli citizens;
- Transfer of the East Jerusalem Palestinian population (a 2002 poll at the height of the Al Aqsa intifada found 46% of Israelis favoring Palestinian transfer of Jerusalem residents).
In 2005 the United States ambassador to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, expressed U.S. support "for the retention by Israel of major Israeli population centres [in the West Bank] as an outcome of negotiations", reflecting President Bush's statement a year earlier that a permanent peace treaty would have to reflect "demographic realities" on the West Bank. In May 2011 US President Barack Obama officially stated US support for a future Palestinian state based on borders prior to the 1967 War, allowing for land swaps where they are mutually agreeable between the two sides. Obama was the first US president to formally support the policy, but he stated that it had it been one long held by the US in its Middle East negotiations.