Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank

Published: 
13 May 2002

B'Tselem releases new report: Settlements are built on 1.7% of West Bank land and control 41.9%

Today, B'Tselem hosted a press conference to release its new report, Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank. B'Tselem's researcher, Yehezkel Lein, presented the report and the accompanying map which details the built-up areas and the land reserved for future development of West Bank settlements.

International humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory. An occupying power is also prohibited from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area, unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population or are for urgent military needs. Israel's settlement policy violates these regulations.

B'Tselem's report was published following extensive research and despite difficulties in obtaining information from the Civil Administration. The report makes available to the public for the first time comprehensive information regarding the extent of human rights violations resulting from the establishment of settlements in the West Bank.

The research reveals that while the built-up areas of the settlements constitute only 1.7% of the land in the West Bank, the municipal boundaries are over three times as large: 6.8%. Regional councils constitute an additional 35.1%. Thus, a total of 41.9% of the area in the West Bank is controlled by the settlements.

The report presents the various mechanisms by which Israel's governments have taken control of land and have encouraged Israeli citizens to move to settlements. These techniques include the de facto annexation of the settlements to Israel, the planning system which invests significant resources to expand the settlements, and the granting of numerous economic incentives intended to raise the standard of living in the settlements. For example, in the year 2000, Jewish local councils in the West Bank received grants from the government averaging sixty-five percent more those received by their counterparts inside Israel. Settlement regional councils received grants averaging 165% more than their counterparts in Israel.

Given that the settlements are illegal, and in light of the myriad human rights violations that they cause, B'Tselem calls on the Israeli government to work to dismantle all of the settlements. "From a human rights perspective, there is no other conclusion that can be reached," said Yehezkel Lein, author of the report, at today's press conference.

Until the process of evacuation is undertaken, B'Tselem calls on the Israeli government to take a number of interim steps to minimize the violation of human rights and international law. Among other steps, the Israeli government should:

  • Halt all new construction in the settlements;
  • Halt the planning and construction of new by-pass roads;
  • Return to Palestinian communities all the non-built-up areas attached to settlements and regional councils;
  • Halt the policy of providing incentives to encourage Israeli citizens to move to the settlements, and allocate resources instead to encourage settlers to relocate to within the borders of the State of Israel.