The Palestinian people, by and large, accepted the discourse of
peaceful negotiations based on the Madrid Conference of 1991. The
guiding principles of these negotiations were "Land for Peace" and
UN Resolutions 242 and 338. After several rounds of talks in
Washington, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel agreed
on the historic Declaration of Principles (DOP) in September, 1993.
This called for a five-year interim period during which Palestinian
and Israeli representatives would negotiate a final status
agreement, dealing with the issues of Jerusalem, refugees,
settlements, borders and water. The Oslo II agreement, signed in
Washington in September, 1995, set out a framework for Palestinian
autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, pending final status
negotiations, which were scheduled to begin in May, 1996, and
finish by May, 1999.
The interim agreement divided Palestinian land into areas A, B and
C. In Area A, the Palestinian authority had complete autonomy over
administrative and security issues; in area B, the Palestinians had
civil responsibilities; in Area C, Israel had full control.
Subsequent agreements resulted in further withdrawals of Israeli
military forces and expanded the area under Palestinian
At present (December, 2002), Area A comprises 1,004 km² of the
West Bank. A further 254.2 km² of the Gaza Strip is also under
Palestinian control. Area B now comprises 1,204 km² of the
West Bank, while the rest remains under full Israeli control in
The interim agreement stated that the first phase of the Israeli
withdrawal would be completed prior to the Palestinian elections.
Further withdrawals were to take place within 18 months of the
Palestinian Legislative Council's inauguration. Responsibilities
relating to territory were to be gradually transferred to
Palestinian jurisdiction, except for issues included in the
permanent status negotiations (i.e. borders, Jerusalem and
Some 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza should have come under
Palestinian control 18 months after the inauguration of the
Council. But this did not happen. By March, 2000, just 18.2 percent
of the territory was under effective Palestinian control.
Meanwhile, Israel was proceeding with its expropriation of
Palestinian land for building settlements and by-pass roads.
Israeli Policy of Land Expropriation
The scope and type of land affected by expropriation is determined
by Israel's geopolitical ambition to create an ethnic Jewish state
in as much of historical Palestine as possible. There are two
goals: expansion and separation from the Palestinian population.
Though the Likud party emphasizes the former and Labor the latter,
both wish to extend and reinforce Israeli control over the
Palestinian territory. Locations chosen for expropriation are those
that may be easily annexed to Israel proper in the future, or that
secure economic resources, militarily advantage or negotiating
According to Israeli data, there are 140 settlements in the West
Bank and Gaza. However, satellite images show 282 built-up Jewish
areas in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 26 in Gaza,
excluding military sites. These areas cover 150.5 km².1
Currently, the total number of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza
is more than 400,000, half of whom reside in settlements in
expanded East Jerusalem. There are 18 Israeli settlements in the
Gaza Strip and over 200 in the West Bank.
In Jerusalem, Israel expanded the borders of East Jerusalem from
6.5 km² to 71 km² to cover areas in Ramallah and
Bethlehem. Those borders were drawn to include as much vacant land
but as little built-up Palestinian land as possible.
Today, Israel is in complete control of the city, yet much of the
real estate still legally belongs to the indigenous Palestinian
population, who have been living there continuously for centuries.
Israel's intensive development program after 1967 built housing and
associated infrastructure in the unilaterally annexed and expanded
territory of occupied East Jerusalem. In Jerusalem's Old City, the
Israeli authorities have also gradually taken over 55
In the Gaza Strip, settlements lie predominantly:
* Along the south coast, securing Israeli control of the coast and
* Near the Egyptian border to secure control of the border now and
in the case of a final settlement with the Palestinians.
* At two junctions further north in the Strip, dividing it into
three separate areas.
In the West Bank, the focus has been on the following areas:
* Jerusalem, to create demographic barriers and preclude
Palestinian claims to it.
* Along the West Bank's western edges to make a return to 1967
borders impossible, to control water resources and to make the
settlements appealing to settlers, who commute to work inside
* The Jordan valley for security reasons, as well as for its
Settlement growth is geared towards the creation of blocks that
separate Palestinian towns and villages into cantons, making the
contiguity of any future Palestinian state practically
Military camps are also scattered throughout the Palestinian
Territories. Most are in the Jordan Valley, which all Israeli
planning schemes intend to retain as an "eastern security zone" in
the event of a settlement with the Palestinians. In the past,
military camps were precursors to civilian settlements, but this
practice has declined in recent years, as Israel no longer attempts
to legitimate settlement building through military necessity.
The term by-pass road was born with the Oslo Accords, to designate
roads in the Palestinian Territories that link Jewish settlements
to military camps and to Israel proper, while circumventing
built-up Palestinian areas. The Israeli military has complete
control of these roads and frequently prevents Palestinians from
using them. These roads carve the Palestinian areas into isolated
ghettos and often deprive farmers of vital agricultural land. The
situation is especially serious in the major cities of the West
Bank, where by-pass roads form asphalt boundaries limiting the
development of Palestinian communities and further disconnecting
them from one another. Israel has built more than 228 km of by-pass
roads in the West Bank so far, and around another 565 km of roads
are planned. Building by-pass roads, with a 75-meter buffer zone on
either side, destroys Palestinian land and hurts the economy. A
complex system of military checkpoints complements the by-pass
roads. During this Intifada, the Israelis have made full use of
these, splitting the Gaza Strip into three separate cantons and the
West Bank into 64. Between 2000 and 2002, satellite images showed
there were 24 new Israeli settlements and 113 new outposts
established on Palestinian land as nucleii for new
Financial Incentives Offered to Israeli Settlers
Settlers receive a seven percent income tax exemption in the West
Bank and 10 percent in Gaza, equivalent to NIS153 million annually.
Every settler is granted around NIS 80,000 by the Ministry of
Housing. In 2003, the Israeli government is providing NIS 8.55
billion from its budget for settlements.
* The Jewish National Fund is providing NIS 172.4 million for land
* The Ministry of Transport will use NIS 253.5 million from Israeli
taxes to pave roads.
* The Ministry of Defense will open new by-pass roads at a cost of
NIS 228 million.
* The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will provide between NIS
22.3 million and NIS 51.9 million to the settlements.
* The Ministry of Housing is providing NIS 350 million. It is also
paying NIS 20.6 million to protect settlers living in the old
neighborhoods of Jerusalem. In addition, the ministry is giving NIS
76,800 as loans for each person who wants to buy a new apartment,
NIS 16,800 of which are grants.
* NIS 137.8 million will come from the Ministry of
* The Ministry of Religious Affairs is giving NIS 50 million (30
percent of its budget) to build synagogues inside
* The Ministry of Education is offering free education to children
and free university studies to teachers working in settlements
schools, at a cost of NIS 30 million.
* The Ministry of Infrastructure is providing NIS 9.7 million for
* The Ministry of Interior is offering NIS 480 million.
These moves to increase the number of settlers in the West Bank,
provided by successive Israeli governments, have encouraged even
the non-religious to move to settlements. However, they have so far
failed to change the demography of the West Bank. The Israeli
government claims settlement expansion is happening naturally,
despite registering a population growth of eight and a half
percent, four times higher than in the rest of Israel.
The Israeli military administration has issued a series of orders
to limit Palestinian access to water and land. These laws directly
affect the Palestinian agricultural sector, exacerbating the
economic problems in the Palestinian Territories. Most agricultural
land is located in Area C (fully controlled by Israel). Large areas
of cultivable land were confiscated and classified as closed
military areas. Thirty percent of West Bank land is inaccessible to
Palestinians and used solely by Israeli military forces. Cultivated
area has declined in recent years from more than 240,000 hectares
to 178,669 hectares. Only 70,000 hectares of rangeland, out of a
total 220,000, are accessible to Palestinian shepherds in the West
Bank and Gaza. This limited area can provide food for less than 15
percent of the Palestinian population. Moreover, 7,000 hectares
adjacent to the Jordan River have been completely sealed off, 800
hectares of which is highly fertile, cultivable land.
Most urban expansion is limited to Areas A and B, due to the
difficulties of building in Area C. This pattern of urban
development has destroyed large areas of agricultural land within
Areas A and B, due to the scarcity of open space for
West Bank settlers 60
West Bank Palestinians 725
Gaza Settlers 51
Gaza Palestinians 4,454
Satellite imagery and aerial photography of Palestinian urban
agglomerations shows no more than 368.5 km2 of urban areas in the
West Bank, 6.29 percent of the total area. In Gaza, Palestinian
built-up area is 50.3 km², 13.7 percent of the total area.
Palestinian population density in the West Bank is 5,449/km2 while
in Gaza it is 23,600/ km2.
These figures are extremely high. Under more stable conditions,
population density could be calculated by dividing the total number
of inhabitants by the total area. Currently this form of
calculation is impossible, as political boundaries are no more than
lines on a map and the actual area accessible to Palestinians is
far smaller than that defined by Areas A, B and C. Israel's
population density (238/km2) meanwhile, compares with European
Israeli policies have increased pressure on the land that is
accessible to Palestinians. Physical infrastructure, including road
networks, public buildings and sewage systems, has deteriorated.
Overcrowding creates a breeding ground for health problems and
social unrest. The depletion of resources resulting from the
Israeli occupation is preventing the establishment of Palestinian
sovereignty, the key reason for conflict between the Palestinians
Israeli control over much Palestinian territory, checkpoints, land
expropriation and a lack of geographical continuity prohibit the
creation of a sustainable Palestinian state. The Palestinian
economy relies on Israel's, both for labor and access to
international trade. As a result of the current Intifada, Israel is
tightening its grip on Palestinian resources.
Israeli forces and settlers harass Palestinian farmers, uprooting
their trees, restricting their movement, separating villages and
destroying agricultural lands, all under the pretext of security.
Limited access to the fertile Jordan Valley harms the agriculture
sector. A dependent economy, and a lack of sovereignty over water
and land resources, have left Palestinians extremely vulnerable to
Re-demarcation of the Geographic Boundaries of the Palestinian
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's latest plan is for Israel to
retain control over 60 percent of the West Bank, returning just 40
percent to the Palestinians. This 40 percent would not only deprive
Palestinians of most of their agricultural and grazing lands, it
would fragment the West Bank into 64 disconnected entities. Such an
arrangement eliminates the possibility of creating a viable state
and leaves the Palestinians permanently subject to Israel. The
resulting Palestinian enclaves would be completely surrounded and
movement between them dependent on Israeli approval. What Sharon
calls the western and eastern security areas, along with the hill
aquifer, are the most fertile parts of the West Bank and the
richest sources of water.
All Israeli settlements would be placed inside a special security
zone, with additional areas slated for their expansion. Between
April and November, 2002, Sharon's government renewed its policy of
unilateral segregation between the West Bank and Israeli-controlled
territories. In April, 2002, an order by the steering committee
dealing with the Apartheid Wall (Security Fence) called for an
immediate start to construction of the wall in the northern West
Bank and the Jerusalem area. The wall will cover at least 350 km,
encircling the West Bank and re-demarcating its boundaries. The
first phase of the wall will be approximately 115 km long and will
include electric fences, trenches, cameras and security patrols.
More than two percent of the West Bank will be expropriated to
Israel proper, and at least 30 villages will lose part or all of
their lands during this phase. This will force Palestinians living
between the Green Line (1949 Armistice Line) and the wall to leave
their homes, effectively a population transfer. The Wall is
designed to incorporate all Israeli settlements, built on
Palestinian territories east of the Green Line, into Israel. Its
route will satisfy settlers security needs and create facts on the
ground that could benefit Israel in the future peace negotiations.
Israeli control over large parts of the Occupied Territories has
already affected geographic contiguity there, making integrated
planning or development unfeasible.
Peace, justice and sustainability will not be achieved without an
equitable distribution of natural resources. Denying Palestinians
access to these contravenes international law. Israeli policies are
causing intolerable hardship and suffering. A lasting peace can
only be based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338, in which a fully
sovereign Palestinian state will be established on the Palestinian
land occupied by Israel in 1967, bordering a secure and independent
Israeli state. Finally, peace built on an equity of resources and
rights will sustain and guarantee security for both sides.
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Demolition and dispossession, the destruction of Palestinian
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Violation of Human Rights: Legal and Conceptual Aspects.
Isaac, Jad. 1999. The essentials of sustainable water resource
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Isaac, Jad and Beatrice Filkin. 2000. Natural Resource Availability
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Isaac, Jad and Maurice Saade. 1999. Strategic Options for
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Palestinian Bureau of Statistics: www.pcbs.org, visited on December
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The Arab Association for Human Rights. 2001. Land and planning
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Abu Sitta, Salman. 1999. Palestine Right to Return: Sacred, Legal,
and Possible. London: The Palestinian Return Center.
Matar, Ibrahim. 1997. The Quiet War: Land Expropriation in the
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11 GIS database, ARIJ, 2000 Applied Research Institute -