There were clearly violations of the Oslo Accords on both sides, but looking at the expansion of the settlements and the deepening of an Israeli presence since the signing of Oslo, it is not difficult to understand the present crisis. Many Palestinians came to doubt Israel’s intention of ever leaving the territories or making genuine peace.
The only contact most Palestinians have with Israel is with the settlements or with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) guarding them. Palestinians perceive construction in the settlements as a unilateral action, perpetrated by force. The following data demonstrates that since the Oslo agreements were signed, the daily message the average Palestinian receives is one of force, not peace. This helps explain the grass-roots frustration that is fueling the current crisis. It also explains the wide gap between how Israelis and Palestinians perceive today’s situation. Most Israelis were and are fundamentally unaware of the situation on the ground in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. For them, 1993-2000 were years of peace and the current violence strengthens the right-wing claim that the Palestinians do not really want peace.
It is time for our government to demonstrate concretely that it seeks peace, by freezing the expansion of settlements and declaring a readiness to negotiate a return to the 1967 borders with minor territorial exchanges.
Housing: 52.49% growth since 1993.
In September 1993 there were 32,750 family housing units in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Between September 1993 and July 2000, construction was begun on 17,190 housing units; 2,830 of these were begun during the Barak administration (Central Bureau of Statistics).
52.96% rise December 1993-June 1999; c. 72% projected rise December 1993-December 2000. At the end of 1993, there were 115,700 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; in mid-1999, there were 176,973, a rise of 61,273 (Central Bureau of Statistics). Based on an average annual growth rate of 7.92% between 1992-1998, Peace Now projects that the number of settlers will reach c. 199,000 at the end of 2000, a rise of c. 84,000 compared to numbers at the end of 1993.
Since Oslo, three new settlements were officially established by Israel: Lapid, Kiryat Sefer and Menora; at the end of 1998, these had a combined population of 12,212. In addition, between 1996 and 1999, the settlers established over 42 unofficial settlements, fewer than ten of these were subsequently dismantled (Central Bureau of Statistics and Peace Now Settlement Watch reports). There are 145 official settlements on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but about 200 independent localities.
New Roads: Between 1994 and 1997, paving was begun on 139.6 km of Israeli bypass roads in the West Bank and Gaza. During the same period, road paving was completed on 159.2 km (Central Bureau of Statistics).
II. Human-Rights Violations
Between the end of 1994 and November 2000, 740 Palestinian houses were demolished by the IDF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (not including those demolished in East Jerusalem) (B’Tselem).
Days of Closure:
Between December 1993 and November 2000, there were 326 days of full closure in the West Bank and 311 days in the Gaza Strip (official Israeli sources through B’Tselem).
Towns and Settlements
in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
There are approximately 700 Palestinian towns in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and approximately 145 settlements. The total population numbers approximately 3 million Palestinians and 195,000 settlers.
In the Gaza Strip, approximately 6,500 settlers live in 16 settlements. Approximately one million Palestinians live in some 40 Palestinian towns.
In the West Bank, there are approximately 130 settlements with a population of approximately 190,000 settlers. The Palestinian population is approximately 2 million, in some 650 towns.
Approximately half the settlers in the West Bank live in 9 urban settlements (from north to south): Karnei Shomron, Immanuel, Ariel, Kiryat Sefer, Givat Ze’ev, Ma’aleh Adumim, Betar Elite, Efrat and Kiryat Arba. Three of these settlements are ultra-Orthodox — Kiryat Sefer, Betar Elite and Immanuel, with a total population of approximately 30,000; three are secular — Ariel, Givat Ze’ev and Ma’aleh Adumim, with a population of approximately 52,000; and two are religious — Efrat and Kiryat Arba (the latter settlement is approximately 75% religious), with a population of approximately 14,000. One of the nine settlements (Karnei Shomron, approximately 6,000) has a mixed character. In addition, approximately 90 settlements exist, each of which has a population of fewer than 500.
Removal of the Settlements
The removal of most of the settlements is essential; otherwise, the areas of Palestinian sovereignty will not be contiguous. This will, of course, prevent any Palestinian agreement. Since most of the Israeli public accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the public can be persuaded to support the removal of most of the settlements as a consequence.
The criteria for the removal of settlements include: proximity to the main Palestinian population centers; distance from the Green Line; size of the settlement; the possibility of creating a safe route for passage to the settlement; the possibility of reaching an arrangement by consent to provide for the settlement to remain in Israeli hands.
The Settlements May Be Divided into Eight Categories:
1. Settlements in the Gaza Strip, which are situated in the heart of a densely populated Palestinian area, or very close to such an area. These settlements are Netzarim, Kfar Darom, Morag, Netzer Hazani, Gannei Tal, Katif, Neve Dekalim, Gadid, Gan Or, Pe’at Sadeh, Bedolah, Atzmona, Rafiah Yam, Kfar Yam, Nissanit, Elei Sinai, and Dugit (total population: approximately 6,500).
2. Settlements in the West Bank that are situated in the heart of densely populated Palestinian areas, or very close to such areas: Hebron, Ganim, Kadim, Sa Nur, Homesh, Kfar Tapuach, Ateret, Neve Zuf (Halamish), Nachliel, Telmon, Dolev, Ofra, Beit El, Psagot, Har Gilo, Karmei Zur, Kiryat Arba, Beit Haggai, Otniel (approximately 18,500).
3. Settlements surrounded by Palestinian towns: Mevo Dotan, Hermesh, Einav, Shavei Shomron, Avnei Hefetz, Elon Moreh, Kedumim, Bracha, Itamar, Yitzhar, Migdalim, Rachelim, Eli, Ma’aleh Levona, Shilo, Shvut Rachel, Alei Zahav, Paduel, Na’aleh, Nili, Kfar Eldad, Nokdim, Tekoa, Meitzad, Ma’aleh Amos, Telem, Adura, Pnei Khever (approximately 16,000).
4. Settlements deep within the West Bank: Immanuel, Karnei Shomron, Ma’aleh Shomron, Nofim, Yakir, Revava, Kiryat Netafim, Barkan, Ariel, Kokhav Hashachar, Rimonim, Ma’aleh Mikhmash, Beit Horon, Kokhav Ya’akov, Adam, Anatot, Elon, Kfar Adumim, Kadar, Mitzpe Yericho, Karmel, Maon, Susia (45,000).
5. Jordan Valley settlements: Mechola, Shdemot Mechola, Ro’i, Beka’ot, Hamra, Argaman, Mechora, Mesu’a, Gitit, Ma’aleh Ephraim, Yafit, Petzael, Tomer, Gilpal, Netiv Hagdud, Na’aran, Yeitav, Na’ama, Vered Yericho, Beit Ha’arava, Almog, Kalya, Mitzpe Shalem (5,000).
6. Settlements that break the contiguity of Palestinian areas: Alfei Menashe, Beit Aryeh, Givat Ze’ev, Givon, Givon Hahadasha, Eshkolot (20,000).
7. Gush Etzion: Neve Daniel, Rosh Zurim, Elazar, Efrat, Alon Shvut, Kfar Etzion, Beit Ayin, Migdal Oz (12,000).
8. Settlements adjacent to the Green Line: Hinanit, Shaked, Reihan, Sla’it, Zufim, Oranit, Sha’arei Tikva, Etz Ephraim, Elkana, Kiryat Sefer, Hashmonaim, Matityahu, Lapid, Mevo Horon, Har Adar, Ma’aleh Adumim, Betar Elite, Tenne, Shima, Shani, Metzudat Yehuda (approximately 72,000).
In addition to the above-mentioned settlements, the following neighborhoods of Jerusalem lie beyond the Green Line: Gilo, Ramot, Pisgat Ze’ev, East Talpiyot, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Reches Shu’fat and others, with a total population of approximately 180,000.
The new map suggested by Peace Now clarifies and emphasizes several points relating to issues that have been the subject of public debate in recent years:
* The “settlements blocs” option: The plan to establish “blocs” of settlements is impractical, and discussion of this idea ignores the realities on the ground. The “blocs” of settlements in the northwestern part of the West Bank actually include more Palestinians than settlers; annexing these blocs is contrary to the interests of the State of Israel. The proposal to draw a tortuous line avoiding the annexation of Palestinians is unrealistic, since it would be difficult to defend such a line. The same situation exists along the road from Modi’in to Jerusalem: annexing the settlements along this road means annexing more Palestinians than Israelis.
* The claim that it is possible to annex 80% of the settlers has no foundation in reality, and reflects the wishes of certain politicians rather than demographic facts. If the intention is to annex areas 7 and 8 in the above list, it should be pointed out that these areas actually include some 42% of the settlers who live in approximately 5.5% of the territory of the West Bank (approximately 300 sq. km.). Such annexation would require Palestinian consent.
* Barak has promised to leave Ofra and Beit El within the borders of Israel. These are two of the settlements that constitute a security burden and will have to be dismantled.
* The government’s unilateral separation plan, which has so far been presented to the public only in part, is unacceptable. The plan cannot be implemented; moreover, it would leave settlements in dangerous areas, and thus perpetuate the status quo.
Peace Now Plan
Peace Now has always believed that the settlements are the main obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, pointing out that they constitute an ongoing provocation. At the present stage of the struggle in the occupied territories, the Israeli public is increasingly willing to remove settlements and to accept a solution based upon the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. Most of the Israeli public views an ongoing Israeli presence in the territories as a source of danger that has created difficulties for the IDF. The public is increasingly unwilling to tolerate a battle for the settlements, as distinct from a battle for the future of the State of Israel. For most Israelis, the Green Line is more tangible than ever — very few cross this line, except for army duty.
As we feared for many years, the price of continuing to maintain settlements in the heart of Palestinian territory is unbearable. For the settlers — although still not for most Israelis — the reality is one of armed conflict and an atmosphere of war. Although we all understand the difficulties facing both the settlers and the Palestinians in the occupied territories, we believe it is vital to distinguish between daily hardship and the urgent need to find a resolution to the long conflict. Only termination of the occupation will bring to an end the tragic suffering and loss of life.
1. Israel’s overriding interest is to secure an agreement ending the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ending our control over a large and hostile population. In order to reduce friction, conflict and bloodshed, we call for the removal of settlements in the Gaza Strip to begin immediately. Most Israelis have long favored the evacuation of this area — indeed, many Israelis have been surprised to discover that Israel is still embroiled in the Gaza Strip and still controls some 20% of this area.
2. We urge the government to reach an agreement providing for the gradual removal of the other settlements, over a reasonably short time frame. Settlers will be offered alternative housing within the State of Israel, in locations to be defined in advance together with the settlers. The government must offer housing solutions for settlers required to relocate, and must take into account the special communal character of some of the settlements. We urge the government to immediately establish an official body to assist those settlers who already wish to leave the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and to alleviate this process.
3. The Israeli government must cease all building beyond the Green Line — construction that is superfluous, dangerous and provocative: superfluous, because it is clear that any agreement will necessitate the evacuation of most of the settlements; dangerous, because construction symbolizes for the Palestinians the continuation of the occupation. Settlement construction is a unilateral act carried out by force and represents a major element in the present violence.
4. The bypass roads built in the occupied territories, supposedly for security reasons, have actually become key targets for attacks on Israelis, since it is they who mainly use these roads. We urge the government to abandon the ridiculous policy of building such roads.
5. We urge the Israeli government to engage in negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the Green Line of 1967, including in Jerusalem. If Israel wishes to annex areas 7 and 8 from the above list, it must offer the Palestinians equivalent territory in a region to be agreed upon by both sides. In this case, such territory might amount to as much as 5.5% of the area of the West Bank.
December 4, 2000