From 1967 to mid-2011, Israel established 124 settlements in the West Bank that were recognized by the Interior Ministry as “communities.” In addition, some 100 outposts (settlements built without official authorization but with support and assistance of government ministries). Furthermore, twelve neighborhoods that were established on land annexed by Israel in 1967 and made part of Jerusalem are deemed settlements under international law. The government has also funded and assisted in the establishment of a few settler enclaves in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, including in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrach, Mount of Olives, Ras al-‘Amud, Abu Dis, and Jabal al-Mukabber. Sixteen settlements that had been established in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank were dismantled in 2005 in the course of implementing the disengagement plan.
Israel created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation and discrimination, with two separate systems of law in the same territory. One system, for the settlers, de facto annexes the settlements to Israel and grants settlers the rights of citizens of a democratic state. The other is a system of military law that systematically deprives Palestinian of their rights and denies them the ability to have any real effect on shaping the policy regarding the land space in which they live and with respect to their rights. These separate systems reinforce a regime in which rights depend on the national identity of the individual.
Under this regime, hundreds of thousands of dunams of land populated by Palestinians have been stolen. This land has been used to establish dozens of settlements and to populate them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. As a rule, Israel prevents Palestinians from entering these lands and using them. The existence of the settlements brings with it the violation of many human rights of Palestinians, including the right of property, the right to equality, the right to a suitable standard of living, and the right to freedom of movement. The extreme change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility to establish an independent, viable Palestinian state in the framework of exercising the right to self-determination.
The settlers, on the other hand, benefit from all rights given to citizens of Israel who live inside the Green Line, and in some instances, even additional rights. The great effort Israel has expended in the settlement enterprise - financially, legally, and bureaucratically - has turned the settlements into civilian enclaves within an area under military rule and has given the settlers a preferred status. To perpetuate this unlawful situation, Israel has continuously violated the Palestinians' human rights.
Especially conspicuous is Israel's manipulative use of the law to create a semblance of legality for the settlement enterprise. So long as Jordanian law assisted Israel in advancing its goals, it seized the argument that international law requires that an occupying state apply the law in effect in the territory prior to occupation, thus construing international law in a cynical and tendentious way. When Jordanian law was unfavorable for Israel, Israel did not hesitate to revoke it though military legislation and develop new rules to meet its ends. In doing so, Israel tramples on international agreements to which it is party - agreements which are intended to reduce human rights violations and protect people under occupation.
Because the very establishment of the settlements is illegal, and in light of the human rights violations resulting from the existence of the settlements, B'Tselem demands that Israel evacuate the settlements. The action must be done in a way that respects the settlers' human rights, including the payment of compensation.
Clearly, evacuation of the settlements will be complex and will take time; however there are intermediate steps that can be taken immediately so as to reduce, to the extent possible, human rights violations and breaches of international law. For example, the government should cease new construction in the settlements - both the building of new settlements and the expansion of existing settlements. It must also freeze the planning and building of new bypass roads and must cease expropriating and seizing land intended for the bypass roads. The government must return to Palestinian villages all the non-built-up land that was placed within the municipal jurisdiction of the settlements and the regional councils, eliminate the planning boards in the settlements, and, as a result thereof, revoke the power of the local authorities to draw up outline plans and grant building permits. Also, the government must cease the granting of incentives to encourage Israeli citizens to move to settlements and must make resources available to encourage settlers to move inside Israel's borders.