The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
- From President Barack Obama's On a New Beginning speech delivered June 4, 2009 in Cairo
"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." - Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49 (12 August 1949)
"The UN Security Council emphasizes 'the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war;' calls for Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories." - UN Security Council Resolution 242 (22 November 1967)
"Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State...is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations." - Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 53 (12 August 1949)
"No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property." - Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17 (10 December 1948)
The expansion of illegal settlements, the accompanying confiscation of Palestinian land and practice of demolishing Palestinian homes constitute an unrelenting cycle that deprives the Palestinian people of their shelter, property, land, freedom of movement and self-determination. Although the footprint of existing settlements is only 3% of the West Bank, the combination of Israeli infrastructure, room set aside for settlement growth, Israeli-only road systems, military zones and Israeli-dedicated nature reserves in the West Bank, causes almost 40% of the West Bank to be off limits to Palestinians.
If current plans are fulfilled, the northern West Bank will be cut off from the southern West Bank and Palestinians will be pushed into isolated enclaves with little freedom of movement and very limited water, arable land and access to decent livelihoods. This increasing fragmentation of the West Bank population, and the shrinking area available for its 2.5 million Palestinian residents, are major obstacles to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security.
Continued expansion of settlements and the eviction and demolition of Palestinian homes threaten the prospects for peace. We ask that you contact elected officials to urge the US to press for
Learn about and support the Mt. of Olives Housing Project , an ELCA-supported joint project of our companions the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Lutheran World Federation and the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria Foundation. By providing 84 units of housing for Palestinian Christians, we hope to help stem the flow of Christian emigration as well as ease the shortage of affordable housing in Jerusalem.
The ELCA, in its Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine, calls for "A cessation of all settlement activities and withdrawal from settlements on Palestinian territory to the 1967 boundaries."
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), has challenged settlement activity in letters to the President, including an April 2010 letter which states, "New construction or settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank undermines the mutual trust that is a necessary condition for successful negotiations."
The World Council of Churches (WCC) issued a September 2009 statement calling “upon the government of Israel to urgently implement an open-ended freeze in good-faith on all settlement construction and expansion as a first step towards the dismantlement of all settlements."
According to Peace Now in Israel and official Israeli statistics, at least 480,000 people live in settlements, Israeli communities built in territory – East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights - captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Between 1967 and 2009, Israel has constructed 120 settlements in the West Bank (not including Jerusalem) that are officially recognized as “communities” or "neighborhoods" under Israel law yet are considered illegal under international law. Another 100 or so unrecognized settlements known as outposts still exist despite a pledge by Israel to dismantle them. Settlements in the Sinai Peninsula were evacuated in 1982 as part of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. In 2005 Israel withdrew its approximately 9,000 settlers from Gaza.
In the Oslo Peace accords signed in 1993, Palestinians agreed to defer difficult issues in exchange for Israeli commitments to preserve the territorial integrity of the West Bank and Gaza. However, the accords included a broad range of protection for settlers and settlements, and, in fact, during the Oslo Peace Process (from 1993 to 2000) the number of settlers doubled from 114,900 to 203,000, excluding the settlements in Jerusalem. Settlement expansion and land confiscation have continued during all the peace processes despite calls for a freeze in the US-backed "roadmap" and the agreements at Annapolis. Israel pledged to remove all outposts, but so far all but a few remain.
In Oslo II in 1995, three zones were constituted with different security and administrative arrangements: Area A (now 17% of the West Bank and Gaza), which is under full Palestinian control; Area B (now about 24% of the West Bank), which is under Palestinian civil and Israeli security control; and Area C (59% of the West Bank) which is under full Israeli control. The goal was a gradual transition of all areas to Palestinian control, but as of now, none of this area has been transferred to Palestinians. In fact, Palestinian construction is forbidden in about 70% of Area C, even though Palestinians own the land. According to Peace Now, 94% of building permits for Palestinians in Area C were denied. Area C holds 63% of the West Bank's agricultural land. Many of the settlement blocs in Area C are included in those that Israelis hope to make part of any future Israeli state. (For more information, see UN OCHA's report: Restricting Space: The Planning Regime Applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, Dec. 2009).
In Jerusalem, days after the 1967 Israeli war, Israel immediately annexed 70 dunums (1/4 of an acre) of Palestinian land within Jerusalem and in villages nearby. This move has never been recognized by any nation and there are numerous UN and other international resolutions demanding that Israel withdraw from the territory it annexed. Then, as stipulated in the Land Ordinance Acquisition Public Purposes of 1943, the Israeli Finance Minister was authorized to issue expropriation orders for private land if there was a "public purpose." This public purpose ultimately included the building of Israeli settlements and infrastructure.
Since the annexation in 1967, Israel has expropriated 24,000 dunums on which 12 Israeli settlements were initially built - with others to come later - that are now home to about 200,000. After the annexation, the Israeli government put in many zoning and other restrictions on Palestinian home buildings, such as zoning areas as "green" and therefore unbuildable or reserving land for "public use," which means Israeli infrastructure. Only 13% of the land is able to be built upon by Palestinians, and this land is already crowded and dense, which in itself will make it difficult to get building permits.
According to B'tselem and other human rights groups, 66% of today's Jerusalem is territory that was confiscated from West Bank territory and old Jordanian municipality property.
Since 1967, Israel has followed a clear strategy to increase the percentage of Jewish population and decrease the Palestinian population in Jerusalem. It was articulated in the Master Plan 2000, announced in 2004, that lists as a goal a 70% Jewish majority in the city of Jerusalem, which in 1980 Israel announced as “the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.”
The continuing settlement expansion of Jerusalem is a part of this strategy, as shown in the map at left. The Green Line is the closest thing that international law considers to be a defacto border between Israel and Palestine, and it is marked on this map. Everything outside of that is Palestinian territory by international law, but all the yellow boxes point to newer or expanding settlements on Palestinian land. Note the black line, which is the separation barrier, and how it follows the settlements. The separation barrier has taken another 10% of Palestinian land in the West Bank by putting it on the Israeli side of the barrier. 85% of the barrier is on Palestinian land.
In November of 2009 the Israeli government agreed to a partial freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem. However, due to exceptions, the units already underway that were exempted from the freeze and some settlers just ignoring the freeze, building continued in many places throughout the West Bank. New permits were even issued for controversial sites in and around East Jerusalem. The continuation of the Fall 2010 peace talks fell apart when the settlement freeze ended and Israel not only refused to renew it but allowed at least 600 new building starts immediately and announced more to come.
In addition to the land taken up by settlements, water allocation is a main issue, with Palestinians experiencing shortages while settlers' water needs are met. According to PASSIA, settlers use 20 times more water per capita than neighboring Palestinian communities, who survive on 20 liters of water per capita per day - the minimum amount recommended by the World Health Organization for emergency situations. In 1967 and against international law, Israel took control of all water resources and have not allowed the Palestinians to dig a single well to use the waters of its own western aquifer since 1995.
Ongoing violence is also heightening, especially in East Jerusalem, between settlers and Palestinians. According to Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, 90% of the complaints by Palestinians against Israeli settlers are closed without any action or conviction. The increasing presence of private security companies - paid for by Israeli government funds - is also upping the ante in tense spots like Silwan and Hebron.
According to the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished since 1967, mostly as a result of not having building permits. However, it is very difficult to obtain these permits with all the zoning restrictions, and, even if granted, are very expensive. In addition, without a Town Planning Scheme (TPS) by the Jerusalem Municipality, growth and building in a community is not allowed, and the Jerusalem municipality has done few Palestinian TPS's.
The demolition of homes is against international law.
BETWEEN 2000 AND 2007:
*No data on Jewish homes demolished
"Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived...as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory." - Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 47 (12 August 1949)
"Family honor and rights, the lives of person, and private property, as well as religious convictions and practice, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated." - The Hague Convention, Article 46 (18 October 1907)
"Considers that the acquisition and retention of territory in contravention of the right of the people of that territory to self-determination is inadmissible and a gross violation of the Charter." - UN General Assembly Resolution 2649, Article 4 (30 November 1970)