- Max Hyman
Israeli Settlements in Palestine
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
One of, if not the, most substantial reason that peace talks continue to grow farther and farther from peace is Israeli settlement activity. While Palestinians and Israelis continue to make developments in the decrease of violence on numerous fronts, the growth of this problem in particular has been a central focus for the lack of Palestinian unwillingness to approach the negotiating table with open minds. Almost a tenth of Israel's Jews live in areas that are (by most) considered Palestine - East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In fact, the population of Jews living in the West Bank has grown 4x faster than Israel's itself since 1995. Settlers see themselves as inhabiting land that is rightfully theirs, but the International Court of Justice (part of the UN) dispute that in numerous decisions - Israel's justification being that the UN is biased.
Israelis began moving into the West Bank once Israel had gained control of the region from Jordan in the 1967 war, and in some capacity, all Israeli governments have supported settlements since. Throughout history, they were often justified as defense against potential attacks such as those from Arabs in 1948. Critics argue that this is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which explicitly prohibits a "an occupying power" from transferring civilians into territories it occupies, but Israel maintains that Jordan wasn't recognized as the sovereign power there. In addition, throughout the argument, many Jews have used the concept that the West Bank was essential to Biblical Israel. Today, some settlers justify their habitat because of the affordability, with mortgages averaging around $700 per settler per an entire year. However, it should be said that this is largely as a result of government influence, as Israel subsidizes the land with favorable mortgages and discounts on purchases of property, manipulating citizens for geopolitical gain. The presence of settlements makes everyday life difficult for Palestinians, because barriers and fences to secure settlers restrict the freedom to movement of those supposedly in control of hat land. Both sides are attacked by militants of the other, but in these areas, Israeli military and civil law applies in the cases that are prosecuted.
Israel plans to annex these areas, or, "apply Israeli sovereignty to them", which would essentially, in the minds of many in the international community, block any future peace. This was announced after President Trump endorsed such a move in his proposed resolution and after the US announced it did not see the settlements as breaking international law. As of now, about 130 gov-approved and 100 unofficial settlements home to 400k Israelis, as well as 200k Israelis in East Jerusalem. Israel faces tension over the conflict with its largest trading partner, the EU, as the EU instructed all products created in settlements to be labeled as such (essentially giving a boost to advocates of a product boycott by Arab states).
Since these settlements are sprinkled throughout the West Bank, any legitimate state of Palestine would have no territorial contiguity. Not only does that interfere with infrastructure and the movement of people and goods but it delegitimizes the Palestinian people and their rightful claim to some areas of the land in any capacity. While Israelis offer to compensate for the land with other territory in Israel, such as in the Negev, this offer proves the lack of understanding of the emotional importance to that land, not any land. Overall, it is abundantly clear that Palestine is not the only entity that is engaged in practices counterproductive to peace - especially seeing the exponential rise of such a practice.