Israeli Settlement Areas

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Here are the five most populous settlements in the West Bank.
Ariel Zirulnick, Contributor

A laborer carries tiles on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish Settlement of Ariel August 31. (Nir Elias/Reuters)


Founded in 1978
Population: 16,716
Of the five largest settlements in the West Bank, Ariel is located the furthest from the Green Line – more than 9 miles. It lies east of Tel Aviv and north of Jerusalem. Though it remains on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier, it is considered a strategic bulwark protecting Israel's narrow middle. It has a university, the Ariel University Center of Samaria, that enrolls 8,500 students, both Jews and Arabs.

A Palestinian and foreign worker ride on a trailer hauling crates of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes during the harvest, August 31, in one of the vineyards of the Israeli Gush Etzion Settlement region in the West Bank. (Newscom)

Gush Etzion bloc

First post-1948 settlement was founded in 1967
Population: 20,532 (excluding Betar Illit)
Gush Etzion is the collective name used for a group of Israeli settlements in the vicinity of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Foundation for Middle East Peace counts 15 settlements as part of the bloc, including Betar Illit. The settlements lie on both sides of the separation barrier, but entirely on the Palestinian side of the Green Line.
Israelis first attempted to settle the area now part of the Gush Etzion bloc in the 1920s. The first attempt was unsuccessful, and later attempts were destroyed in the 1948 war. Efforts began again in 1967, when Israel took over the West Bank in the Six-Day War.


Betar Illit

Founded in 1985
Population: 34,829
Betar Illit is situated about six miles south of Jerusalem and west of Bethlehem, and is located less than a kilometer within the Palestinian side of the Green Line. It is an Orthodox Jewish community with one of the fastest-growing populations in the West Bank. Because much of the population is engaged in religious study, rather than employed in nearby cities, it is relatively self contained. Betar Illit is often considered part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

A Palestinian laborer works on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim September 14. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Maale Adumim

Founded in 1975
Population: 33,821
Maale Adumim lies east of Jerusalem, about 2.5 miles from the Green Line. Considered by many Israelis to be a suburb of the city because of its close proximity, it began as a planned community and commuter town for Israelis working in Jerusalem. A mix of religious and secular Jews live there.
Israel values the "strategic depth” Maale Adumim offers against an army coming from the east. But Palestinians and their international supporters have criticized Israel’s efforts to incorporate Maale Adumim, as well as an adjacent area known as E-1, because those plans threaten the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state. The Maale Adumim bloc extends far into the West Bank, leaving only a narrow corridor of land in the eastern West Bank to connect the northern and southern regions of the territory.
A Jewish settler walks with children near a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, Sept. 14. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Modin Illit

Founded in 1981
Population: 41,869
Modiin Illit sits about halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. With more than 42,000 settlers today, Modiin Illit alone has about four times the number of settlers that were in the entire Gaza Strip before the 2005 disengagement. Most of its residents are Orthodox Jews.
Modiin Illit is encompassed by the Israeli separation barrier – designed to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian militant attacks – even though it lies outside the pre-1967 Israeli border known as the Green Line. Just on the other side of the wall from Modiin Illit is Bilin, where Palestinians have held weekly protests against the wall for several years.
As I have not had great experiences with the credibility of this publication... please let me know if any of this information is false...

Facts About Settlements

By Mitchell Bard

(Updated September 24,

are actually towns and villages where Jews have gone to live since
the capture of Judea and Samaria — the West
— and Gaza Strip
in the 1967 war . In many
cases, flourishing Jewish communities lived in the same area for thousands
of years.
Strategic concerns led both Labor
and Likud governments
to establish settlements. The first were built by Labor governments
from 1968-1977. The objective was to secure a Jewish majority in key
strategic regions of the West Bank, such as the Tel
-Jerusalem corridor,
the scene of heavy fighting in several Arab-Israeli
The second wave of settlements began with the occupation
of the Park Hotel in Hebron
in 1968, a town with a long, rich Jewish history, that had been interrupted
by an Arab massacre in 1929.
These were the first of the ideological settlers who believed that
Israel's victory in 1967 was an act of God and indicated divine providence
that the historic Land of Israel should be restored to the Jewish
people. Very few such settlements were established until Menachem
assumed power. His government and subsequent Likud governments
provided financial incentives for Jews to move to parts of Judea and
Samaria that did not necessarily have any strategic value. Their purpose
was to solidify Israel's hold on territory that was part of biblical
and historical Palestine/Israel (minus the nearly four-fifths of Palestine
Great Britain severed in 1921 to create Transjordan)
and preempt the creation of a Palestinian state.
A third group of Jews who are today considered "settlers,"
moved to the West Bank primarily for economic reasons; that is, the
government provided financial incentives to live there, and the towns
were close to their jobs.
Today, roughly 130 settlements
are in the territories, with an estimated population of 276,440.
Critics suggest these figures imply territorial
compromise with the Palestinians is impossible;
however, the distribution of the Jewish
population is such that a solution is
conceivable. When Arab-Israeli peace talks
began in late 1991, more than 80 percent
of the West Bank contained no settlements
or only sparsely populated ones. Today,
roughly 70 percent of Israelis
living in the West Bank, approximately
190,000 people, live in what are in effect
suburbs of major Israeli cities such as Jerusalem and Tel
. They could be brought within
Israel's borders if Israel were to redraw
so as to retain an Arab population
(from the West Bank) of less than 50,000.
These include Israelis living in the following
regions of the West Bank: Ariel, the
area surrounding Ariel, Gush
, Maaleh Adumim, Givat Zeev
and Latrun.
It is inconceivable that Israel would
evacuate large cities such as Ariel,
with a population of approximately 20,000,
even after a peace agreement with the
Palestinians, and even Yasser
grudgingly accepted at Camp
the idea that the large settelement
blocs would be part of Israel.
It is also important to
understand that most settlements are relatively
small towns. Of 124 of the
settlements, the data shows
that only 5 (4%) have populations greater
than 10,000, 45 have populations greater
than 1,000 (45%), and 74 have populations
greater than 500 (60%). Fifty settlements
(40%) have fewer than 500 residents.1 More
than 40% of the Jews live in just six
settlements near the 1967 border. The Arab
city of Nablus alone
is larger than those six Jewish cities
put together. Nearly half the settlements
and 70% of the Jewish population live
five miles
of the Green Line; three-fourths
of the settlements and 94% of the population
live within 10 miles.
The area in dispute
is also very small. According to one organization
critical of settlements, the built-up areas
constitute only 1.7% of the West Bank.
That is less than 40 square miles. Even
if you add the unbuilt areas falling with
the municipal boundaries of the settlements,
the total area is only 152 square miles.


Another charge is that settlements are “illegal.”
The United States has never adopted this position and legal scholars
have noted that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy
territory when necessary to protect itself. Moreover, the occupying
power may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures
designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory.
According to Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary
of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, Resolution
gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution
“allows Israel to administer the territories” it won in
1967 “until 'a just and lasting peace in the Middle East' is
achieved,” Rostow wrote in The New Republic (10/21/91).
During the debate on the resolution, he added, “speaker after
speaker made it clear that Israel was not to be forced back to the
'fragile' and 'vulnerable' [1949] Armistice Demarcation Lines.”


Israel's adversaries, and even some friends, assert
that settlements are an obstacle to peace. The evidence points to
the opposite conclusion. From 1949-67, when Jews were forbidden to
live on the West Bank, the Arabs refused to make peace with Israel.
From 1967-77, the Labor Party established only a few strategic settlements
in the territories, yet the Arabs showed no interest in making peace
with Israel. In 1977, months after a Likud government committed to
greater settlement activity took power, Egyptian President
Anwar Sadat
went to Jerusalem. One year later, Israel froze settlements,
hoping the gesture would entice other Arabs to join the Camp
David peace process
. But none would. In another Camp
David summit
in 2000, Ehud
offered to dismantle most settlements and create a Palestinian
state in exchange for peace, and Yasser Arafat rejected the plan.
Israel also proved willing to dismantle settlements
in the interest of peace. During the Camp David negotiations with
Egypt, all of the issues
had been resolved, but one remained, Sadat's insistence that all settlements
in the Sinai be removed. Begin didn't want to remove them, but he
called Ariel Sharon for
advice. Sharon said that in the interest of peace, the settlements
should be dismantled. Israel did just that in 1982, providing compensation
to residents for the loss of their homes, farms and businesses that
ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 (Jerusalem Post, January 8,
2004). Nevertheless, a small group of settlers in the town of Yamit
refused to leave and Sharon had the army literally drag them out of
their homes to comply with the terms of the agreement
with Egypt
In short, the historical record shows that with
the exception of Egypt,
and Jordan, the Arab states
and Palestinians have been intransigent regardless of the scope of
settlement activity. One reason is the conviction that time is on
their side. References are frequently made in Arabic writings to how
long it took to expel the Crusaders
and how it might take a similar length of time to do the same to the
Settlement activity may be a stimulus to peace because
it forces Arabs to question this tenet. “The Palestinians now
realize,” said Bethlehem
Mayor Elias Freij, a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid
talks, “that time is now on the side of Israel, which can build
settlements and create facts, and that the only way out of this dilemma
is face-to-face negotiations.” Consequently, the Arabs went to
Madrid and Washington for peace talks despite continued settlement
activity. Similarly, the Palestinians negotiated with Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin, even though
he also allowed the number of settlers to grow.

Rights Versus Wisdom

The implication of many settlement critics is that
it would be better for peace if the West Bank were Judenrein.
It would certainly be called racist if Jews were barred from living
in New York, Paris or London; barring them from living in the West
Bank, the cradle of Jewish civilization, would be no less objectionable.
On the other hand, though Jews may have the right
to live in the territories, it still might not be to Israel's advantage
for them to do so. Settlements create serious security concerns for
Israel, requiring the deployment of forces to protect Jews living
in communities outside the boundaries of the state and diverting resources
that might otherwise be used to prepare the military for possible
conflicts with enemy armies. The settlements also have had a budgetary
impact as hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on infrastructure,
incentives, and other material needs for Jews living in these communities.
Many Israelis believe that the military and economic cost is not justified
and support the removal of some settlements. Those closest to the
1967 border, and especially those surrounding Jerusalem, however,
are generally regarded as justified on a variety of grounds and are
likely to be incorporated within the ultimate boundary of Israel.
Israelis also increasingly believe the Palestinians
may be correct about time being on their side. If Israel were to annex
the territories, it would face a dilemma that no official has yet
solved, and that is how Israel could remain both a Jewish and democratic
state. Though some Jews on the right of the political spectrum hold
out hope of a dramatic demographic shift as a result of immigration,
most projections foresee an exponential increase in the population
of Arabs in Israel and the territories. According to Arnon Soffer,
Israel's most prominent demographer, 6,300,000 Jews are expected to
live in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza combined while the Palestinian
population would be 8,740,000. If these Palestinians all had the right
to vote in a "Greater Israel," Israel could not maintain
its Jewish character, and if they were denied the right to vote, Israel
would no longer be a democracy (Forward, (January 9, 2004).
This is why no Israeli prime minister, even those believed to support
"Greater Israel," was ever prepared to annex the territories,
and why most Israelis, including Prime Minister Sharon, have favored
trading land for peace and security.

Peace Agreements

When he presented the Interim
(“Oslo 2”) before the Knesset
on October 5, 1995, Prime Minister Rabin stated, “I wish to remind
you, we made a the Knesset not to uproot any settlement
in the framework of the Interim Agreement, nor to freeze construction
and natural growth.” Neither the
Declaration of Principles
of September 13, 1993, nor the
Interim Agreement
contains any provisions prohibiting or restricting
the establishment or expansion of Jewish communities in the West Bank
or Gaza Strip. While a clause in the accords prohibits changing the
status of the territories, it was intended to ensure only that neither
side would take unilateral measures to alter the legal status of the
areas (such as annexation or declaration of statehood).
According to the road
for peace, Israel is supposed to freeze settlement activity
and remove illegal outposts. Israel has been removing illegal outposts,
but has not been willing to implement the freeze because the Palestinians
have failed to fulfill their commitments to stop the violence.
In August 2005, Israel
evacuated all
the settlements in the Gaza
and four in the West
under the disengagement
initiated by Prime
Minister Sharon.
This was
a dramatic shift in policy by a man considered
one of the fathers of the settler movement. Sharon has
also said that Israel will not keep
all the settlements in the West
Israel gave up all the
territory it held in Gaza and
evacuated some West
settlements without any agreement
from the Palestinians, who now have
complete authority over their population
within Gaza.
This offered the Palestinians an opportunity
to prove that if Israel made territorial
concessions, they would be prepared to
coexist with their neighbor and to build
a state of their own. Instead of trading
land for peace, however, Israel exchanged
territory for terror. Hamas came to power
in the Palestinian
and instead
of using the opportunity to build the infrastructure
for statehood, the Gaza
became a
scene of chaos as rival Palestinian factions
vied for power. Terrorism from Gaza
also continued unabated and Israeli towns
have been repeatedly
hit by rockets
from the area Israel evacuated.

Anthony Cordesman, "From
Peace to War: Land for Peace or Settlements
for War
," (DC:
Center for Strategic and International
Studies, August 15, 2003), pp. 17-21. B'tselem,
July 11, 2009.

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