When talking about the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank were and still are one of the most difficult issues to solve. Most UN member states consider it illegal because it violates the international laws governing the occupied territories, while Israel does not agree with it.
In November, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States no longer considered it to be in breach of international law.
Whether the settlements were legitimate or not, they were constantly growing.
Here, we show how the region has changed since the Israeli-Arab war in 1967. (Territories subject to Israel a blue balloon, and the West Bank in yellow).
Take a look at the six maps to see how the settlements have grown since Israel occupied the area more than 50 years ago.
The blue dots represent settlements that are officially approved by the Israeli government. There are also informal settlements, known as outposts, that have not been included.
Three million people live in a small area of the West Bank, 86 percent of them are Palestinians, and 14 percent (427,800 people) are Israeli settlers.
In most cases, they live in separate communities.
Many Israeli settlements were established in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. During the past two decades, the settlement population has doubled.
Satellite imagery shows how the settlements have grown over time. In 2004, there were about 10,000 settlers in Givat Zeev. Now it has 17,000 settlers. It expanded west by adding new houses, one synagogue and a shopping center.
Settlements vary in size. In some, a few hundred settlers live. The largest of these is the Modi’in Illit settlement, which includes approximately 73080 settlements.
In the past 15 years, its population has tripled. The Peace Now movement (a group that campaigned against settlements) collected this data.
Even if more Israeli settlements are not built, it will continue to grow because of the high birth rate. The birth rate among Palestinians is much lower.
Population growth in Givat Zeev settlement from 2004 to 2019
Population in 2019: 17,000
Population in 2004: 10,000
Currently, the birth rate of Israeli settlers is more than seven children per family. This is more than double the rate in Israel, where the average number of children is 3.1 children per family. Compared to European Union countries, the average is 1.58 children per woman.
The Modi’in Illit settlement has a higher fertility rate than any city in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, with an average of 7.59 children per family.
Today, Palestinian mothers in the West Bank have fewer children than ever before, and the average number of children is 3.2 children per family. However, the effect of this asymmetry will not appear for at least one generation.
The settlements are built on land claimed by the Palestinians in order to establish their future state, alongside Israel.
And they say that they cannot build this state unless all the settlements are removed.
Why do Israelis want to live in the West Bank?
Some Israelis move to settlements because the benefits provided by the Israeli government provide them with housing at the lowest cost, and thus enjoy a better standard of living.
Some also move there to live in strict religious societies, and they believe that God has given the Jews this land and they have to settle on it according to what was stated in their holy book (the Torah).
A third of settlers in the West Bank are ultra-Orthodox. Often families are large and poorer. Therefore, the standard of living is also a key factor.
But some settlers see residency in the West Bank as an ideological task, meaning that they consider it the land of their Jewish ancestors.
According to Peace Now, settlers in the West Bank are divided equally among the three groups.
Who wants a two-state solution?
Few are from They support the idea of dividing this land into two independent countries.
In 2006, 71 percent of Palestinians and 68 percent of Israelis said they supported this idea.
In 2018, Blinked The ratio To become 43 percent Only among Palestinians, And 49 percent between The Israelis.
As for The number of young people who support the idea of dividing the land into two independent countries Less than The proportions above.
In Israel, only 27 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 say they support the idea of a two-state solution.
Where were the data and surveys obtained above?
- Population data for settlements from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, collected in a dataset by Peace Now.
- Data on fertility rates are from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
- Estimates of the fertility rate of settler communities are written by Yinon Cohen and Yusef Haim Yerushalmi, a professor of Jewish and Israeli studies at Columbia University.
- Survey data on attitudes toward a two-state solution are taken from the Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, a joint survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Polls, the Israel Democracy Institute and the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, Tel Aviv University.
What does the BBC’s defense and diplomatic correspondent say?
Until now, all the difficult aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement (so-called final status issues, such as borders, the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the long-term status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees) were to be left for face-to-face talks between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.
But not anymore. The agreement proposed by President Trump and enthusiastically endorsed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu framed all these issues in Israel’s favor.
The Palestinians were not only absent from this meeting (they boycotted the Trump administration since he unilaterally moved his country’s embassy to Jerusalem) but the project was eventually presented to them with an ultimatum (acceptance of Trump’s criteria or others) and they were given about four years to acclimate to it.
Although President Trump offers the Palestinians a state, it will be a severed state. Jewish settlers will not be expelled from it, and it is clear that Israeli sovereignty will extend to include settlement buildings and the Jordan Valley.
The Palestinians may have a capital on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. However, this offer is “either to accept it or reject it” and it will disappoint many old students in the region. The question now is, not what benefit this deal might bring, but the amount of harm it would do by overcoming the aspirations of the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have cut off contact with the Trump administration since December 2017, following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Tel Aviv.
Since then, the United States has terminated aid to the Palestinians and its contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Last November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States abandoned its four-decade-old stance that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are inconsistent with international law.
what is it Issues Intractable?
Of all the conflicts in the Middle East, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the most difficult. Although the two sides signed a peace agreement in 1993, they are as they were more than a quarter of a century ago, as conditions between them did not develop.
Both Israel and the Palestinians have different demands regarding Jerusalem. Israel considers Jerusalem, in its western and eastern parts (the eastern part was under the control of Jordan in 1967) as its capital, while the Palestinians insist that East Jerusalem (home to about 350 thousand Palestinians) is the future capital of their state.
The Palestinians want an independent state of their own, which includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israeli prime ministers have openly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel, but they have not agreed on the form of that state.
Benjamin Netanyahu said that any Palestinian state must be demilitarized with powers to govern itself, but not as a threat to Israel.
Israel insists that any peace agreement must include Palestinian recognition that Israel is a “nation-state for the Jewish people”, under the pretext that without this, the Palestinians will continue to pressure their national demands on the land, which will cause the conflict to continue.
Palestinians say that what Israel calls itself is its own, but recognition of it as a Jewish state will be discrimination against the Arab population of Palestinian origin in Israel, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Druze.
Both sides have fundamentally different ideas of where the borders of a potential Palestinian state should be.
The Palestinians insist on the borders established on the ceasefire lines that separate Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 1949 and 1967.
As for Israel, it insists that these lines cannot be defended militarily and were never intended to be permanent. But she did not say where its borders should be, other than clarifying its eastern borders, which she said should be along the Jordan River.
Since 1967, Israel has built around 140 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in addition to 121 outposts (settlements built without government permission).
Most of the international community considers these settlements illegal, although Israel opposes this.
Palestinians say all settlements must be removed in order for a Palestinian state to be viable. As for Netanyahu, he not only pledged not to remove it, but to submit it to Israeli sovereignty as well.
The United Nations says its agencies support about 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East (the Palestinian Authority says there are up to 6 million), including the descendants of those who fled or were expelled by the Jewish forces from what later became the state of Israel between the years 1948 and 1949.
The Palestinians insist on their right to return to their former homes, but Israel says that this is not their right, noting that such a move would be overwhelmed demographically and prevent the achievement of a Jewish state.