Settlement was and still is the expression of Israeli expansionist
designs, justified by a host of religious, Zionist and, especially,
security pretexts. Following the 1967 war and the annexation of
large sections of East Jerusalem to Israel, the banner of
settlement in the West Bank was carried by a small ultra-right
minority, adepts of an ideology which calls for the annexation to
Israel of the whole of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Aims of Settlement
The aspirations of the two major parties in Israel - Labor and
Likud - define the aims of Jewish settlement in the occupied
territories. In its drive to build settlements there, Labor set out
to achieve the following:
• The control of water sources in the West Bank. Settlements
are established over "weak" spots in the main aquifers all along
the West Bank where artesian wells can be easily dug, such as in
the north of Ramallah and near Jenin, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya.
• The consolidation of Israeli control over sensitive
security areas, such as the Jordan Valley (Ghor), with a view to
maintaining an Israeli presence between Jordan and the West Bank in
the event a regional settlement is concluded.
• The attempt to draw the borders of a permanent settlement
in the West Bank through the construction of settlements along the
lines of the Allon Plan, in spite of the fact that the plan was not
officially adopted by the Labor party.
• The prevention of any Palestinian territorial extension
which would isolate the major settlements from the June 4, 1967,
borders of Israel, and the connection of these settlements through
bypass roads, along which settlement extensions will be
• The creation of irrevocable facts in East Jerusalem through
the establishment of heavily populated settlements. It is no
accident that the number of inhabitants in settlement neighborhoods
is close to - or probably even exceeds - that of Palestinian
inhabitants in Jerusalem. Of the 70,000 dunums of the area of East
Jerusalem annexed in 1967 (i.e., one-third of the area), 23,500
dunums have been expropriated between 1967 and 1995. The majority
of these lands were in private Palestinian ownership. Of these,
Labor expropriated 17,000 dunums and Likud the rest.
Through the policy of building belts around East Jerusalem, such as
Pisgat Ze'ev, Neve Ya'acov, French Hill, Ma'aleh Adumim, Gilo and
Ramot, the number of settlers rose to more than 150,000 in the
middle of 1995.
In an interview with Ma'ariv newspaper on October 10, 1990, former
mayor Teddy Kollek gave an explicit and candid explanation of
Labor's settlement policy. He summarized what was happening in East
Jerusalem, and admitted that the interests of the Palestinians did
not figure among the city's developmental plans: "We have uttered a
lot of nonsense, but have failed to implement anything. We have
declared, on several occasions, that we would extend equal rights
to Jews and Arabs in the city - but those were empty words. Levi
Eshkol and Menachem Begin made commitments to grant equality to the
Arabs, but neither of them kept his promises and never provided
them even with a semblance of equality under the law; they were and
remain second- and third-class citizens... I did something for
Jewish Jerusalem during the past 25 years, but in East Jerusalem
nothing! What did I do? Schools? Nothing. Pavements? Nothing.
Cultural centers? None. Yes, we did build a sewerage system for
them and we improved the water supply. Do you know why? When
several cholera cases were declared on the Arab side [early 1970s],
the Jews panicked at the prospect of the disease reaching them, so
we set up the sewage and water networks to contain the
According to B'Tselem data, 76,151 housing units were built in East
Jerusalem between 1967 and February 1995. The project was carried
out mainly for the benefit of the Jews, as 64,880 housing units
were built for them (88 percent of the total), while only 8,880
were built for Palestinians during the same period.
Using the pretext of coalition party demands, the 1993 Labor
government approved and, indeed, encouraged settlement in Gush
Etzion, in the center of Hebron and south of the Hebron hills. To
please the extreme right, it closed its eyes to the taking over by
settlers of 1,243 housing units built during the Likud government,
in spite of Labor's decision to freeze settlement.
According to Housing Ministry data, 5,264 housing units were built
between 1990-1992: 1,112 in the Gaza Strip and 4,152 in the West
Bank. Among the latter, 732 are in the Hebron hills, 1, 209 in the
Ramallah district, 149 in Gush Etzion and 46 in the Jordan Valley.
Of these units, 2,509 are completely ready.
Peace Now has noted that four years before Labor came to power
(July 13, 1992), the Likud government had built 10,000 housing
units. These had been left unfinished, but were completed by Labor,
leading to a 40-percent increase in the number of settlers in the
occupied territories. Until January 1, 1992, the number of settlers
was 101,210 (97,800 in the West Bank and 3,410 in the Gaza Strip).
In April 4, 1995, the number of settlers rose to 138,048 (132,771
in the West Bank and 5,277 in the Gaza Strip), i.e., an average
increase of 37 percent. This ratio rose to 40 percent by
mid-1996, towards the end of the Labor rule (i.e., 145,000 settlers
according to the 4-percent natural population growth).
The Likud's settlement policy, with Ariel Sharon at its vanguard,
rests on the concept that the whole of "Eretz Israel" belongs to
the Jews. This was reinforced in rightist-religious circles in the
wake of what was perceived as great concessions by Menachem Begin
to Egypt in Sinai. The deal between Egypt and Israel was concluded
within the context of a peace agreement between the two sides.
Israel was to maintain total control of the West Bank through what
Begin termed, "self-rule for the people and not for the
In addition to all of Labor's settlement objectives and in order to
block any regional peace settlement, especially in the West Bank,
the Israeli right planted "ideological" settlements over a large
expanse of land. These are dispersed and semi-isolated and, in some
of them, the number of settlers does not exceed 100. In 1992, there
were 53 such settlements, with a population of fewer than 200
The Shamir government had prepared "The Year 2010 Plan," with a
view of settling 2.6 million Jews in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
and building 700,000 housing units in 170 settlements, at a cost of
US$140--195 billion. The government did indeed embark on the
grandiose but unrealistic 2010 Plan according to the following
schemes: to expand settlements along the major axes in the West
Bank southward and eastward; to thicken the settlement belts around
Jerusalem; to do away with the Green Line through the "Seven Stars"
settlement project, which will extend along the Modi'in-Wadi 'Ara
axis; and to transform the small settlements into townships, with a
minimum of 600 housing units each. More realistic plans see a
growth of about 10,000 souls a year in the settlements. The present
population  is 150,000.
To connect the settlements with each other, Israel has set up a
network of bypass roads that criss-cross and fragment the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip. Between 1986 and 1989, 150 kilometers of roads
were built and, during the same period, plans were drawn up for an
additional 425.5 kilometers. Data point to the fact that the
purpose of these bypass roads is not security: they were planned
before the onset of the Intifada and the signing of the Oslo
agreement as support for the settlements. Furthermore, and on
several occasions, Binyamin Netanyahu has declared the need to
build settlements along these roads.
In May 1995, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) issued orders for the
expropriation of land from the West Bank for the purpose of
building eight bypass roads measuring130 kilometers, in preparation
for the eventual redeployment in the area.
Through settlement building, the Likud government aims to pressure
the Palestinian Authority (PA) into giving concessions within the
framework of political negotiations. The PA is led to believe that
it is racing against time and steering its course between Scylla
and Charibdis: one is giving in on the minimum requirements for the
realization of their national rights; the other is creeping
settlement which creates facts on the ground, denying PA control
over even the minimum of Palestinian lands.
The Likud strategy is to use a succession of painful blows in
sensitive areas, each blow overriding the previous one. Thus,
following the sharp conflict between the Palestinians and Israel
over the settlements of Giv'at Hazait and Giv'at Hatamar near
Bethlehem, or the Western Wall tunnel in East Jerusalem, Israel
devised the idea of settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). By
doing so, it succeeded in leading the Palestinians to "abandon" the
fight over the previous two hills where the settlements
have already become facts, or over the tunnel which has since
Similarly, at the height of the controversy over the Jabal Abu
Ghneim settlement, Israel came up with plans for settlement in Ras
al-Amud and for the eviction of the Jahalin tribe to allow for the
expansion of the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. By this method,
Israel was thus able to dissipate Palestinian efforts and to divert
the attention of the international media from important settlement
issues. A similar strategy will, undoubtedly, be pursued in the
near future when Israel starts implementing plans for the
expropriation of around 2,500 dunums from the lands of A-Tur, Beit
Hanina and Shu'fat, in addition to large areas of land northwest of
the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, where 1,500 housing units and
2,500 hotel rooms are planned.
'No New Settlements' - An Empty Slogan
To encourage settlement, the Likud government allots huge sums of
money for the purpose. The moment they assumed power, they
exchanged plans for regional priorities (which had placed
settlements low on the scale of national priorities while,
nevertheless, providing them with huge grants and loans), with the
Lieberman Plan, which restores national priority to the settlers
and gives them additional privileges. This prompted Peace Now to
send a letter to Netanyahu, on November 20, 1996, protesting the
government's allotment of over NIS 900 million from the national
budget for settlement over the Green Line (1967 borders).
The failure of the Oslo agreement to include any clauses binding
Israel to stop settlement-building or paving bypass roads, led to
the growth of settlement activity in magnitude and intensity. It
also helped the consolidation of the cantonization policy and the
isolation of Palestinian population centers. This will prevent the
establishment of an independent Palestinian state any time in the
future, by undermining the geographic continuity in Palestinian
In spite of the slogan of "No new settlements," the Netanyahu
government is engaged, at the moment, in building big new
settlements under the guise of expanding existing ones, and in
turning military sites into permanent settlements. Using the excuse
of ensuring security to the settlements, it is proceeding with the
building of bypass roads that will isolate Palestinian population
centers from each other.
The USA, the "sole patron" of the peace process, claims an
impartial stand in the Middle East negotiations. In fact, it seems
to be firmly behind Israeli policy, especially in matters relating
to settlements in the occupied territories. Two successive vetoes
in the Security Council in recent months are proof enough of that,
as is the size of the yearly loans the USA gives to Israel.
Washington has clearly chosen to adopt Netanyahu's lame pretexts
and excuses, behind which he covers the real ideological truth of
his own extremist position in the Israeli right. He attributes it
to coalition considerations and the need for extreme rightist and
religious support. By so doing, the USA is, unfortunately, ignoring
the dictates of justice and democracy - which call for an end to
injustice, and settlement on Palestinian land.