|Picture Credit: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
At the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict lies the question of land and who rules it. The collision of Jewish nationalist colonisation and Palestian nationalism, both laying claim to the same territory, forms the basis of this long conflict, deepened by the tragedies of the Holocaust and of the dispossession and occupation of Palestine. The United Nations partition of the land in 1947, an effort to resolve the two claims simultaneously, did not result in a lasting settlement.
Since the war of 1967, Palestinians have come to accept the reality of Israel within the 1948 boundaries. The land dispute has increasingly focused on Israel's occupation of the remaining territories -- the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. UN Resolutions 242 and 338 stipulate that Israel must withdraw completely from these territories. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, but continues to build many Jewish settlements in the other territories, actions deemed illegal by virtually all other states. The Oslo Accords (1993) and the Road Map (2003) have failed to reach a land agreement between the parties or to bring Israeli withdrawal.
Since 2002, the Israeli government has been building a "security fence" that winds deep into Palestinian territory, claiming the barrier would keep Palestinian suicide bombers from striking Israeli citizens. But this separation wall is a major de facto annexation of Palestinian territories. By building the wall and increasing settlement expansion, Israel retains control over important Palestinian economic areas, agricultural grounds and natural resources like water. The International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel's West Bank barrier violates international law, but the unequal struggle over the land of Palestine continues.
This map from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (July 2008) shows how the separation wall traps a quarter million Palestinians in enclaves to the east and west of the main barrier, isolates approximately 500,000 Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and separates over 90 Palestinian communities from their agricultural land. The barrier severely infringes the rights of Palestinians and restricts their access to work, school and medical treatment.
Click here for the full map (July 2008).
The Monde Diplomatique outlines the terms of agreement of the Geneva Accords (December 2003). This map shows the borders, arrangements about Israeli withdrawal, settlements repatriation, and zones of respective sovereignty the initiative aims at. Click for larger image of map.
This map from the Foundation for Middle East Peace shows Israel's plans for its future borders with Palestinian territories in the West Bank as of May, 2008. The map shows large areas of annexations, settlements preserved and the long and circuitous route of the "security fence," creating implausible boundaries. Click for larger image of map.
Map of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since the war of 1967, which include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Resolutions 242 and 338 stipulate that Israel must withdraw completely from both these territories. The Oslo Accords were supposed to serve as an initial step toward Israeli withdrawal, but instead, the agreement further fragmented the Palestinian population by confining Palestinians to non-contiguous enclaves and preventing travel to other parts of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Click for larger image of map.
Detailed map of the West Bank, with divisions according to the 1993 Oslo Accords. In "Area A", the Palestinian Authority (PA) has full civilian and security control, but Israeli security forces continue to control the borders, making economic activity and travel virtually impossible. In Area B, the PA controls the day-to-day civil administration, while the PA and Israeli Defense Force (IDF) share security responsibilities. In Area C, the Israeli government has full control over the Palestinian population, controlling both the civil administration and police. The heavily guarded Israeli settlements function as colonies within Palestinian territory; Palestinians are expressly forbidden from entering them. Click for larger image of map.
This map from the Foundation for Middle East Peace shows the settlements that Israel established and evacuated in the occupied territories between 1967 and 2008. In 2007, the West Bank had an estimated settler population of 426,000 and east-Jerusalem 191,000. The population of the settlements, excluding that of East Jerusalem, grew 4,5 percent in 2007, which is 3 percent more than the growth of Israel's general population. Click for larger image of map.
The Oslo accords gave the Palestinian Authority nearly 60% control of the civil administration in the Gaza Strip. However, Palestinians are barred from entering the settlements and from using the roads reserved for Israelis. They are also completely cut off from Jerusalem--the center of Palestinian life. Click for larger image of map.
Under General Assembly Resolution 181, Jerusalem was supposed to be administered under a special UN international regime. Arab states rejected this internationalization, leaving West Jerusalem Israeli and East Jerusalem Palestinian. During the 1967 war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and formally annexed it in 1980. Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Click for larger image of map.
Articles & Analysis
As part of a recent series of protests, Palestinian fishermen organized a flotilla of fifty boats to campaign against Israel’s navy attacks on seafarers, and to demand the return of over 30 recently seized fishing boats. A 2010 report by the UN’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that, every five years, Palestinians lose out on $26.5 million in income from the confiscation of boats. In November 2012, Israel committed to a ceasefire agreement with Palestinian groups to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air…”, however, Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen are still rife. They have kept more boats since the ceasefire began in 2012 than between 1994 and 2005. Driving fishermen to abandon their livelihood is contributing to the impoverishment of Gaza’s residents. (The Electronic Intifada)
Palestinians are calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. The boycott action follows a growing number of initiatives from the Gaza Strip that asks Palestinian supporters to replace aid donations with boycott action. The boycott action is two-fold. It calls for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 242, which requests the withdrawal of occupation forces from the Gaza Strip. It simultaneously raises awareness of how Israeli settlements benefit from the oppression of Palestinian farmers. Israeli authorities prohibit Palestinians from accessing the 300 metres flanking the Gaza-Israel border. In reality, the Israeli army regularly attacks Palestinians up to two kilometres from the border in some areas, rendering more than 35 percent of Gaza’s farmland off-limits. As part of this campaign, Palestinians are planting trees in these border regions, despite knowing that sooner or later, they will be destroyed by Israeli forces. (Inter Press Service)
Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, made a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court to stop Israeli exploitation of the West Bank’s natural resources. International humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from exploiting the resources of the occupied territory. Israel has been profiting from the West Bank’s occupation since 1967, making as much as $900m a year from quarrying stone. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected Yesh Din’s petition, arguing that long-term occupiers may adapt international law. This guardian article examines how the court’s decision enables Israeli companies to continue making indiscriminate use of Palestinian water resources, minerals and land. (Guardian)
In May 2010, Egypt re-opened the Rafah crossing for humanitarian cases. Rafah is the only crossing into Egypt on the Palestinian side of Gaza. However, Palestinians travelling for humanitarian reasons, including those with medical referrals and those working for NGOs, are still being prevented from crossing the border. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says it is a "human right" that the crossing be open for all civilians. While Egypt says "[a]ny claim that there should be free movement for all Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt is a joke." (IRIN)
The Palestinian Authority is appealing to the UN Security Council to apply pressure to Israel to halt its settlement expansion into the West Bank. The draft resolution aims to muster international support for the Palestinians and apply pressure to Israel to move forward in the peace process. The document comes after another breakdown of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians this fall, when both parties blamed the other for walking away from the negotiating table. Palestinians are hopeful that the US will not veto the resolution because the content mirrors statements made by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. However, the US has made it clear that it would like to see negotiations re-opened rather than political action at the UN. (LA Times)
The illegal Israeli settlement are the focus of many debates on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but less attention is paid to the human rights situation of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. This Human Rights Watch
report analyzes the separate and unequal conditions of Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents in the West Bank. Most of the Israeli settlement policies discriminate against Palestinian in violation of frameworks laid out by the UN and other international organizations, like the OECD. (Human Rights Watch
This summer, the Israeli authorities have destroyed record-high numbers of Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to Human Rights Watch, the government is simultaneously subsidizing the building of Jewish settlements nearby. Legal authorities say there is no way to challenge the eviction orders within the Israeli military court system, and the cost of bringing the case to court in Israel is prohibitively expensive for most Palestinians villagers. Not only is the State's behavior in violation of numerous international human rights and humanitarian laws, but it also makes granting a Palestinian "right of return" increasingly difficult to arrange. (Human Rights Watch)
Electricity cuts have increased in Gaza since January this year, stemming from Israeli blockades of the fuel needed to run Gaza's only power plant. Scheduled electricity cuts currently last eight to twelve hours daily, considerably worse than five months ago. Electricity cuts interfere with the provision of health services, sanitation, education and water. (UN-OCHA)
Despite its withdrawal of forces on the ground in 2005, Israel continues a virtual occupation of the Gaza Strip and consequently assumes the responsibilities of an occupying power under international law. The author lists numerous examples of the Israeli virtual occupation, including: controlling of borders, maintaining complete control over the air and sea space, continuing surveillance and the continual possibility of airstrikes. (Open Democracy)
In 2001, President Ariel Sharon decided to launch a study on a barrier project between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, the desire for a line of physical separation between the two peoples has "long lingered in the minds of Israeli ideologues, military and politicians." The barrier moved through various stages: from the brain-child of the Zionist revisionist, Vladamir Jabontinsky, to specific Israeli settlements, to the first physical wall around the Gaza strip in the 1990s. As Palestinians dismantled the walls, Israelis rebuilt them but with more sophisticated technology and destructive results. (Alternet)
Fishing in Gaza once provided five-thousand jobs and constituted four-percent of the region's economy. Israel has stopped this. Israeli boats now patrol the coast of Gaza, making Palestinians dependent on external sources for fish. Palestinians in Gaza are smuggling fish - by sea and tunnel - from Egypt, and have even built fishing ponds to provide the vital protein to the population. (Associated Press)
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Bakat, has unveiled plans to demolish up to eighty-eight Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to create a new tourist park. The mayor stated that the program was a "necessary upgrade" and a "win-win situation for all." Palestinian officials denounced the move, stating Bakat's statement was part of a larger plan to bring Palestinians to confrontation. (Independent)
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, has threatened to demolish two-hundred Palestinian homes, to balance the demolition of an illegal Jewish settlement. The statement follows an order from the Israeli Supreme Court to demolish Beit Yehonatan, a Jewish apartment block. Mr. Barkat argued that the Palestinian homes must be demolished to "avoid any impression that the law is being enforced in a discriminatory manner against Jews." Jeff Halper, from the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, argues that the mayor's sense of justice is "ridiculous." (Global Research)
Amnesty International is denouncing Israel's discriminatory water policies in the Occupied Territories and their disastrous impact on the Palestinian economy. As the occupying power, Israel controls the underground water supplies for the West Bank, which it has disproportionately redirected towards Israel settlements and farms. The average water consumption per Palestinian is only a quarter of consumption per settler and way below the daily intake recommended by the WHO. Meanwhile, Palestinians under the Israeli blockade in Gaza are left with polluted water and no alternatives. (Amnesty International
A growing number of Israelis are moving to settlements in the West Bank out of economic rather than ideological reasons. The suburbanite lifestyle and affordable real estate are attracting middle-class families priced out of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. These families are contributing to the growth of West Bank settlements, making the prospect of a two-state solution increasingly unlikely. For the self proclaimed "new settlers," there is no risk in investing in a home on disputed territory, since the peace process will not lead anywhere anytime soon. (The Christian Science Monitor)
Radicalized young Israeli settlers are establishing illegal outposts ever deeper inside the West Bank, meeting only half-hearted opposition from the Israeli government. Constantly evacuated and rebuilt, these new outposts are drawing attention away from the much greater problem of the illegal settlements. The Israeli government, which has failed to take action against these settlements, is deliberately using the outposts to steer the debate away from the issue. (Spiegel Online International)
The Israeli peace organization Peace Now says that Israel is planning to build at least 73,000 new homes in the occupied West bank. The Israeli government has approved the construction of 15,000 housing units and 58,000 units are pending, Israel has been actively expanding in the occupied territories since 1967. Although, these settlements in Palestinian territory are illegal under international law and disrupt the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there are more than 400,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (BBC)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in November 2008 issued two new reports
stating that Israel violates international law by restricting Palestinians' freedom of movement through the West Bank wall. In his report, Ban states that the General Assembly should ask the Security Council's help to enforce an International Court of Justice advisory opinion, which in 2004 ruled that the wall is illegal. But the US has consistently vetoed any action against Israel, so it is unlikely that the Council will enforce the Court's opinion. (UN News
The World Bank, in its report
'The Economic Effects of Restricted Access to Land in the West Bank' states that the Israeli administration caused a 40 percent decline of the per capita gross domestic product in the West Bank from 1999 to 2008. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows that Palestinians do not have access to 38 percent of the West Bank, resulting in drained resources and limited development in the illegally occupied territory. (Integrated Regional Information Networks
This report by the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem argues that Israel uses violence against Palestinians to block access to Palestinian land around Israeli settlements. Because of Israel's actions, Palestinian landowners loose money. Israel promotes the establishment and the expansion of settlements, although this is illegal under international law.
A 2008 report
by an Israeli human rights group Peace Now documents that Israel plans to expand its settlements in the West Bank, in spite of earlier promises to freeze all settlement growth. Peace Now says it has evidence that Israel plans to construct an additional 1,761 illegal housing units in the occupied east Jerusalem alone. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who normally firmly supports Israel, stated that the new settlements are negatively affecting the peace process. (Inter Press Service)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has rejected an Israeli peace proposal because it neglects to deal with the status of Jerusalem, a contentious issue for both sides. The proposal would officially allow Israel to annex over 7 percent of the occupied West Bank with no mention of settlement withdrawal. This article states that Abbas will only accept the proposal if Israel abides by the 1967 borders, ceases settlement expansion and acknowledges east Jerusalem as Palestine's capital. (Agence France Press)
Under the 2008 Road Map - the basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks - Israel must halt all settlement activities in Palestinian territory. However, Israeli settlements in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank have actually increased in 2008. According to this BBC article, Israeli authorities also continue to order the demolition of Palestinian homes and restrict Palestinians' access to water for drinking and irrigation in the Jordan Valley. The UN, together with the UK and the US, urges Israel to freeze all settlement activity in order to advance the peace process.
This June 2008 report on the Israeli-Palestine conflict argues that it is in Israel's best economic, political and military interest to abide by the Oslo Accords and end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Although the author focuses on Israel's benefits from peace, he also recognizes that Israel's existence has denied Palestinian sovereignty and brought them much suffering. The report urges Israel to "allow the Palestinians an honorable, independent existence as well as an opportunity for economic development," and condemns Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as a violation of international law. (ADVA Center)
As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary, two important factors should be considered, according to Elias Khoury: First, that the majority of Palestinians in the region consider the anniversary to be a day of national disaster (Nakba), and second, that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza have transformed a historic incident into a daily reality of separation and conflict. Khoury urges Israel to support the formation of a Palestinian state and to recognize the sufferings of its people. (New York Times)
Israel's blockade of fuel supplies to Gaza prevents UN agencies from delivering humanitarian assistance to Gaza, according to the BBC. The report states that Israel has prevented the delivery of petrol to Gaza since March 18, and diesel since April 2. UN Assistant Secretary General Angela Kane says that if Israel does not reinstate supplies of the fuel, the UN will reduce sewage disposal services, close hospitals and stop food assistance to 650,000 refugees in the territory.
The Israeli military is banning Palestinians from traveling on Route 443 in the West Bank for "security reasons." Israel originally justified the legality of building highway 443 by claiming it would address the needs of the Palestinian people in the occupied territory. Forty thousand Israeli commuters now use the road daily. The New York Times notes that Israel continues to build illegal settlement in the West Bank, and that the barring of Palestinian access to transport constitutes a policy of "apartheid."
This joint NGO report urges Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza. Describing the occupied territory as a "humanitarian implosion," the article demonstrates that Gaza lacks basic health services and that 80 percent of its inhabitants rely on international aid for their livelihood. The report concludes that Israel's blockade constitutes collective punishment of ordinary men, women and children, which is illegal under international law.
More than one third of the West Bank Israeli settlements were built on private Palestinian land that was temporarily seized by military order for "security purposes," according to this Haaretz source. The Defence Ministry had previously refused to release information on the issue, telling an Israeli court that publication "would damage the states security and foreign relations." The report notes that the legality of the settlements is now in doubt within both Israeli and international law. The report also shows the falsehood of the Israeli assertion that "military necessity" justifies keeping the settlements in existence rather than returning the land to its Palestinian owners.
Israel has announced plans to build more than 1,100 apartments in disputed East Jerusalem, "triggering a new crisis in already troubled peace talks" this Associated Press report notes. The fate of the area is one of the sticking points of the Annapolis peace negotiations. Palestine hopes to establish an independent state that includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital. A Palestinian negotiator claimed that any further construction severely threatens the chances of reaching a final peace accord. Israel captured the area in the 1967 war, and has since built homes for over 180,000 Israelis on the site.
This article by, David Kretzmer, Professor of International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, suggests that Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories is a "judicial hypocrisy." The Israeli Supreme Court rules that Israeli military activity is lawful inside Palestinian territories only if it benefits the local Palestinian population. However, Kretzner notes that the military uses this legal framework to expand settlement activity in Palestine - by seizing real estate and land, placing severe restrictions on the local population, and constructing a highway in Gaza solely for the use of Israeli citizens. (Haaretz)
Jewish settlements continue to expand in the West Bank now with the new method of mobile homes. The Israeli organization Peace Now released a report saying that the Israeli government allows these constructions, which violate international law and take Palestinian land. Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now stated that a two-state solution won't be viable if Israel continues to violate Palestinian rights. Palestinians also believe that a "contiguous and viable" Palestinian State is increasingly unrealistic. (al-Jaazera)
Israel started to reduce oil and electricity supplies within the Gaza strip in response to attacks by Hamas in Israeli territory. Israeli human rights organizations and Palestinian civilians see these economic sanctions as illegal and in violation of international law. The Israeli government claims it will make efforts to help Palestinians civilians. However, the United Nations regards the fuel cuts as collective punishment against more than a million people. Israel's deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai suggested that Israel's real motive is to separate Israel from the Gaza territory. (al-Jaazera)
Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon originally insisted that the Israeli barrier served merely as a "temporary border," for "safety" purposes. In reality, the wall seems to be a long-term "frontier border" plan with grave results. This separation confines the Palestinian majority to designated areas and inhibits a possible Palestinian political order. A democratic outcome will be even harder to achieve. (openDemocracy)
The Israeli separation wall has been cutting the Palestinian village of Bilin in two, disrupting the livelihood of the villagers and limiting access to land. After years of peaceful protests, villagers and Israeli peace groups have won a major victory. Israel's Supreme Court contests the route of the wall and unanimously orders the return of 250 acres of farmland to the Bilin side. While the Israeli government claims that the wall serves to protect the territory from Palestinian suicide-bombers, it in fact adds more territory to the Israeli side. (Associated Press)
The Israeli government uses military tribunals to judge civilian cases in the Palestinian occupied territories, according to the International Review of the Red Cross
. In the tribunals, a single judge can impose 10-year prison sentences on Palestinian suspects accused of undermining Israeli security. The author argues that the use of military tribunals in the occupied territories is unlawful under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and that Israel uses the courts to extend "judicial domination" over the Palestinian people.
This New York Times piece discusses the unresolved issues of land and settlement in the West Bank. According to a research based on Israeli government data, about 40 percent of Israeli settlements in the West Bank cover Palestinian-owned private land. The article points out that the lack of enforcement of court decisions favoring Palestinian ownership has encouraged Israeli settlement on private land.
To end division between their various factions and to establish a common front, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails produced this "National Conciliation Document." It proposes establishing a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital on all territories occupied in 1967. While the document offers implicit recognition of Israel by its endorsement of a two-state solution along the 1967 borders, a major policy change for Hamas, Tel Aviv rejected it for not explicitly recognizing Israel or denouncing terrorism. (Translation by Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre)
The first Israeli government elected on a platform of dismantling settlements is looking to Washington rather than Ramallah to endorse its unilateral withdrawal plans. While removing Israelis from the patchwork of ethnic communities that currently make up the West Bank would pull "one foot from the quagmire," this Washington Post article argues that setting the border at the security barrier, and therefore retaining a slice of the West Bank, would "push the other leg deeper into the quicksand." The imposition of a boundary by Israel without Palestinian agreement will not end the dispute over land.
The Israeli government has begun to develop facilities for what could turn into the largest settlement project in the West Bank since 1967. In addition to 3550 settler units, the planned development would include a road network, six hotels and a park. According to a settlement expert, the project would cut off Jerusalem from its Arab surroundings and kill any chance for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank. Israel calls the demographic expansion "natural growth" but Palestinian officials accuse Israel of embarking on a new phase of "large-scale theft of land." The Palestinian Authority warned that if the Quartet allowed Israel to carry out the new settlement expansion plan, the two-state solution would be doomed. (Aljazeera)
Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip does not change the fact that Israel remains an occupying power and Palestinians continue to live under occupation. The US and EU create the "illusion" that the peace process depends on the Palestinians, while ignoring Israel's violation of international law. Le Monde diplomatique
believes the international community should cut military ties with Israel - the fourth largest military exporter in the world - until it adheres to the Road Map peace plan.
A confidential document from the British Foreign Office indicates that the construction of the West Bank barrier and the establishment of Jewish settlements around Jerusalem are policies designed by Israel to prevent the city from becoming a Palestinian capital. The document, which states that "Israeli activities in Jerusalem are in violation of both its Roadmap (peace plan) obligations and international law," calls for tougher EU action to counter the Israeli campaign. To view the official document, click here
In this report, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) argues that the Israeli disengagement does not constitute an end to Israel's military occupation of Palestinian land. They believe that "Jerusalem is being turned into an isolated island and is being de facto annexed to Israel in violation of international law." PNGO is thereby calling on the UN Security Council to compel Israel to abide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion ruling that Israel's Separation and Annexation Wall is contrary to international law.
Following the Gaza disengagement, the Israeli government must evacuate the 2,000 Israelis who live in 101 illegal outposts in the West Bank, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Indeed, the US sees the outposts as a threat to the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state, and made dismantling them a key stipulation in the "road map" peace plan.
With the media focused on the Gaza disengagement, the Israeli government has given orders for its forces to extend the West Bank barrier and include a large Jewish settlement, Maale Adumim. Palestinian authorities reiterate their past warnings that the barrier violates international law, hinders free movement of Palestinians in the area, and infringes upon land for their future state. (New York Times)
The Gaza disengagement is a "smokescreen" for freezing the peace process, and the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will intensify instead of pacify racial injustice, contends ZNet. Additionally, the author says Palestinian right of return must include authority over laws and allow for Palestinian cultural identity to flourish. This "fundamental change in the political orientation" of the Palestinian solidarity movement, aligning it more with the successful South African anti-apartheid movement, may be "the only viable alternative to either the cultural death of the Palestinian people or a repeat of the catastrophe that befell them in the war of 1948."
This International Middle East Media Center article suspects that the Gaza disengagement overshadows Israel's "attempt to legalize the occupation of the West Bank." Israel has managed to "market" its actions as an end to the occupation, and thus won even more support from the US. But this author criticizes US concessions and warns that "there is no hope for a future Palestinian state" if the disengagement does not spur further withdrawals in the West Bank.
According to Hind Khoury, the Palestinian Authority's Minister of State for Jerusalem Affairs, Israel's strategy behind the disengagement consists in consolidating its occupation of Jerusalem's eastern Palestinian sector. Indeed, Israel insists on retaining control over the whole of Jerusalem and rejects Palestinian compromises to share the city on equal terms. But without Jerusalem as a shared capital, a negotiated two-state solution has slim chances to pave the way towards peace between Palestinians and Israelis. (International Herald Tribune)
Despite optimism from Palestinian and Israeli officials, many Palestinians fear that the impending August 17, 2005 Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will do little to enhance their freedom. Rather, Israel's army will maintain control of the borders, airports, seaports and natural resources around Gaza, virtually rendering the area as "one big prison" for Palestinians. (Inter Press Service)
Speaking at a UN Security Council briefing on the Middle East, Palestinian Ambassador Somaia Barghouti said Israel was focusing attention on its Gaza withdrawal while underhandedly pushing its "expansionist colonialist plan" via the wall in occupied Jerusalem. UN Envoy for the Middle East Alvaro de Soto urged both sides to develop a framework agreement for the Gaza pullout that would ensure security for Israelis and hope for Palestinians. (Voice of America)
One day after Israel renewed construction of the wall in the West Bank, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa asked the UN to help impose "punitive measures against entities, companies and individuals" participating in construction. Sanctions are unlikely due to US veto power on the Council, but Reuters
suggests that General Assembly recommendations could lead to boycotts "similar to those used effectively against South Africa over apartheid."
Israel continues to disregard the ruling of the International Court of Justice by restarting construction and calling for "immediate completion" of a wall around West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements. This Electronic Intifada article warns that such a wall violates international law and will further disrupt the lives of thousands of Palestinians living in and around the disputed areas.
After the year-long task of serving as a "depositary of the Geneva Conventions" to monitor Israeli compliance with international law, Swiss Ambassador to the UN Peter Maurer declares that "Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is not taking place in a legal void. International humanitarian law must be respected." This report supports the International Court of Justice ruling on the wall and suggests dual dialogue groups to mediate between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority instead of a previously suggested conference of parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel's Supreme Court has declared Prime Minister Sharon's planned Gaza withdrawal constitutional, but the removal of legal obstacles has had little impact on domestic opposition. Israeli settlers in Gaza remain determined to force parliament to drop the evacuation, and threaten to upset an agreement with the Palestinian authorities "to prevent violence or chaos during the operation". Meanwhile, Palestinian officials claim that that Sharon's "co-ordination efforts" are poor, and a new round of violence has increased fears "that the cease-fire would collapse" during the evacuation. (Associated Press)
A report by two NGOs working on Palestinian housing and land rights asserts that Israeli governments "manipulate the Israeli legal system" and use military aggression "to dispossess Palestinians of land and property." This strategy has enabled the Israeli government to own, use or control "nearly 90% of the land within both Israel and the Occupied Territories." According to the report, "a viable Palestinian state would hardly be feasible given the shortage of available land and infrastructure and the lack of territorial contiguity." (Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions and BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights)
A report on the outposts in the Israeli occupied territories reveals that settlements expanded as a result of a government-constructed difference in definition of the terms "outpost" and "settlement." By referring to illegal settlements as "outposts", the Israeli government created an illusion of "a temporary [settlement] of a security nature." According to this Haaretz editorial, the underlying intention was, however, to enlarge the existing settlements and prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state.
This piece from Middle East Report Online analyzes the logic behind Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan and argues that the plan frees Israel of the Roadmap. The plan allows Israel to negotiate the peace process on its own terms and secure "territorial assets it deems vital." Sharon does not believe in a two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East, and hopes that the new Palestinian state in Gaza and large parts of the West Bank will eventually unite with Jordan. Once completed, Sharon's security barrier will cut off Palestinians from Israel, and leave them with no choice but to adopt Amman as the "new Jerusalem."
The Israeli cabinet has authorized Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's evacuation plan, reinforcing the illegality of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The decision yields power to the Israeli army to forcibly remove settlers who refuse to leave the West Bank and some settlements in Gaza voluntarily and foresees prison sentences of up to two years for those who resist. Palestinians fear the Gaza withdrawal measures amount to no more than a "cover to annex the major Jewish settlements to Israel" and to justify the West Bank security fence route. (Guardian)
Israel's attorney general Menachem Mazuz has ruled against implementation of the 50-year old Absentee Property Law, which the Israeli government approved in the summer of 2004. The law would have allowed Israel to seize Palestinian property in East Jerusalem but faces "many legal difficulties, including Israel's obligations according to the rules of customary international law." The decision protects so called "present absentees" who have no property rights because of the 'broad, technical formulation of the law." (New York Times)
Following the publication of a new government policy report in the daily Ha'aretz, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon acknowledged the secret ratification of a new land confiscation measure approved in July 2004. Israel has labeled the new law "a security issue, not a property issue," denying that the land grab of Palestinian-owned property in East Jerusalem is "state theft, pure and simple." The measure will deny West Bank-based Palestinian landowners access to their property inside the Jerusalem borders. (New York Times)
This article argues that Palestinians will not benefit from Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Israeli settlements in the West Bank will continue to grow, and violence will increase when Israeli settlers refuse to leave Gaza. Ultimately, Israelis in Gaza must either evacuate or agree to live under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "disengagement plan" will unlikely result in a long-term solution. (bitterlemons.org)
This article questions why the 2000 Arab-Israeli peace talks at Camp David collapsed, and refutes a mainstream argument that portrays Arafat as the "villain." Arafat could not accept a "generous deal" in Gaza and the West Bank if it implied denying 1.2 billion Muslims access to the holy site of Temple Mount in Jerusalem. But according to a former CIA officer and adviser to George Tenet, the "status quo theory" that Arafat "couldn't get what he wanted and so he chose the path of violence" is "a lie." (Aljazeera)
Following up on a July 2004 General Assembly resolution, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has outlined a framework establishing a register for Palestinians who wish to submit damage claims and receive adequate compensation. The register will include damage claims resulting from the building of Israel's barrier. The same resolution urged Israel to demolish the wall dividing the Jewish State from Palestinian Territories, but its non-binding nature has rendered the resolution ineffective. (Associated Press)