by Danny Rubenstein
About 300,000 Israelis are living in the areas conquered by Israel in 1967, nearly 28 years ago. However, not all the Israeli settlements over the Green Line (the pre-1967 border) are conceived by the Israelis as identical. Residents of the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, for instance, are not considered in Israel to be settlers. We are referring to eight large neighborhoods (Ramot, Ramat Eshkol, French Hill, Shuafat Heights, Neveh Ya'akov, Pisgat Ze'ev, East Talpiot and Gilo), all of which are situated in the municipal area annexed to Jerusalem after 1967, where 150,000 Jews are living today. Nearly 50,000 additional Israelis living in urban settlements in the West Bank area around Jerusalem and close to the border with west¬ern Samaria are not considered settlers in the usual meaning of the term ¬people settling in the territories for ideological, political or religious rea¬sons.
The Israeli public also distinguishes between different sorts of settle¬ments over the 1967 lines, according to both geographical location and more importantly - to the character of those motivations which induced people to make the choice of building their homes there.
At the beginning of 1995, about 300,000 people were living, as noted, in all the Israeli neighborhoods and settlements over the Green Line. Since the interest to trace the types of settlements and their status schematically over the years, as seen by the Israeli public. In this survey, I have tried to pro¬vide the data and political image of five categories of Jewish settlement in the territories conquered in 1967, more or less according to the chronolog¬ical order of the various waves of settlements.
The beginning of Israeli settlement in the territories, as far back as the sum¬mer of 1967, had to a large extent a nostalgic-romantic character. The ref¬erence is mainly to two places: Gush Etzion and the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem.
In Gush Etzion, before 1948, there were four small kibbutzim (Kfar Etzion, Mesuot Yitzhak, Ein Tsurim and Revadim), three of which belonged to the religious kibbutz movement, Hakibbutz Hadati, and one to Hashomer Hatza'ir. Straight after the war (in June 1967), a group of sons of Kfar Etzion came to settle in the abandoned buildings of the Jordanian army camp on the kibbutz land. Shortly afterwards they won the blessing of the government and began to receive help from the authorities.
The Israeli decision to rehabilitate the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem also, of course, had political significance. However, it was first and foremost motivated by national romanticism - a return to "the cis¬terns, the city and the square" as Naomi Shemer wrote in her famous song "Jerusalem of Gold," which became a sort of anthem of the Six Day War. There were other Jewish settlements of a similar character in different places, such as Kfar Darom in the suburbs of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, near the site of a pre-1948 kibbutz, of that name, or the establishment of the settlement of B'nei Yehuda on the Golan Heights near the site of a small Jewish settlement with the same name, which had been abandoned in 1920.
However, the nostalgic motivation was quickly forgotten. It served in the course of time as a stimulus for a new development, the establishment of great settlement centers which had no connection with Jewish settlements which had existed before 1948 and were abandoned. In Gush Etzion of the 1990s there are twenty settlements stretching along the whole southern mountain ridge of the West Bank and westward to the border of the Judean Desert on the east. It has kibbutzim, moshavim and two urban centers, the town of Ephrat and the neighborhood of Alon Shvut.
The restored Jewish Quarter is also twice as large as it was before 1948.
Its residents were not even satisfied with the new and enlarged area but sent out extensions in the form of Yeshiva students who bought and took over assets in the Muslim and Christian Quarters of Old Jerusalem.
These are settlements mainly established after the 1967 war, usually in accordance with the security doctrine of the Labor Alignment govern¬ments. Most of this settlement was in the Jordan Valley and was carried out according to the political-security plan conceived at the time by Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allan and called the Allan Plan.
The framework of security settlements includes another two large settle¬ment blocs. The first is in the Golan Heights and includes nearly thirty set¬tlements with a population of over 10,000. The Golan settlement is consid¬ered in Israel as a security barrier serving to defend the Upper Galilee set¬tlements, even though during the October 1973 war these settlements were evacuated immediately on the outbreak of the fighting; the IDF comman¬ders admitted afterwards that evacuating civilians from the Golan was one of the great difficulties of the first hours of the war. The second bloc was of the settlements which were established in the Sinai Peninsula, mainly in its northern section in the area called Pithat Rafiah. This was defined in Israel in the 1970s as the creation of a security barrier on Israel's southern border. However, this argument was generally forgot¬ten in face of the adamant Egyptian demand for its evacuation of all the Israeli settlements from sovereign Egyptian territory. From the point of view of those supporting Israeli settlement in the territories, the settle¬ments established on a security background were the greatest failures.
The isolated settlements in southern Sinai were evacuated with the start of the application of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
The largest bloc at Pithat Rafiah, which included the urban neighborhood of Yamit, was also evacuated in 1982, and according to a decision of the Likud government under Begin, confirmed by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, all the houses in these settlements were blown up. Most of the Israelis living there were evacuated into Israel proper and some settled in the area of the Gaza Strip.
The Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip ceased long ago to be considered as having security value and the whole attitude to them has been reversed. Military commanders and ministers in the Rabin government now define the settlements in the Gaza Strip (or at least, most of them) as a special security burden, "a pain in the arse." Only in order to preserve the princi¬ple that settlements will not be evacuated in the intermediary negotiation period, is the Rabin government compelled to invest millions on a complex military set-up to guard the Gaza settlements. In another case, that of the settlement of Netzarim in the suburbs of Gaza, the government invested about NIS 15 million in military infrastructure and large military forces to permanently guard the few Israeli families living in the settlement.
Neither was the fate of the relatively big security bloc of Jordan Valley settlements much better. Most of the settlements there are agricultural and each one has about twenty families. Some of these settlements, especially the kibbutzim, have failed from the social and economic points of view and their populations are unstable. The one urban neighborhood estab¬lished in the Jordan Valley, Ma'aleh Ephraim, is also regarded as a small and weak settlement.
The establishment of the Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem can be considered the most impressive Jewish settlement operation by the Israeli government over the Green Line since 1967. Since East Jerusalem was annexed to the State of Israel, the Israeli public had almost no reservations about buying apartments in the new neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city. Therefore, settlement there enjoyed full legitimacy in Israeli pub¬lic opinion. Since the 1970s all Israeli governments built tens of thousands of housing units for Jews in these neighborhoods and those who purchased the apartments constitute a representative cross-section of the Israeli pubIn other words, in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem one can find voters for leftist parties supporting Israeli retreat from the territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
As most of these Israelis see it, the establishment of Jewish neighbor¬hoods in the east of the city will not damage the prospects of dividing the country between the two peoples, for in the course of time a special solution will be found to the problem of Jerusalem. The only controversy sur¬rounding this question arose over attempts by Israelis to buy land and housing assets in Arab neighborhoods.
The great majority of the 150,000 Israelis who purchased apartments over the Green Line did so without any political intentions. Almost all building in Jerusalem since 1967 was carried out in the eastern part of the city. Young couples and other Israelis who insisted on trying to buy an apart¬ment in the west of the city found the supply was almost non-existent and the prices of apartments and of houses there almost twice as high as those over the Green Line. In practice, the authorities created a situation in which people were given no alternative.
It was Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who coined the phrase "political set¬tlements" during the Israeli election campaign in the spring of 1992. He was referring to the well-known settlements of the Greater Israel support¬ers, led by the activists of the religious-nationalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement. Even though this sort of settlement started after the 1967 war, its scope was' at first extremely restricted, mainly compris¬ing the small Jewish community of Hebron led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger. It was only later, in the second part of the 1970s, that this settlement move¬ment gained great impetus. The subject was accompanied by stormy demonstrations and wide public discussion in Israel.
Especially in the late 1980s, the Likud government most vigorously encouraged and assisted these settlements, and most were indeed estab¬lished at that time. The political settlements account for most of the set¬tlements on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and their numbers reach over a hundred. They are scattered over every corner of the territories and in the heart of Palestinian population concentrations, but the number of Israelis living in them is relatively small.
This is the hard core of the settlers, mostly Orthodox and living in the ter¬ritories out of political-ideological convictions founded on the religious and political ideology of the National Religious movement in Israel. These settlers are organized in bodies like the Judea and Samaria Council and lead a political campaign for the full annexation of the Occupied Territories into the State of Israel, along with restrictions and punishment for the Palestinian population. Their intention is to preserve the latter's under- privileged status as against the superior status of the Israeli settlers. They enjoy efficient organization, highly developed information and publicity services and the political ability to act effectively within the political insti¬tutions of Israeli society.
From a chronological point of view, this is the latest stage of settlement and the only one which still retains impetus. It includes a series of settlements established in the West Bank near the old Green Line border, particularly in the Jerusalem and West Samaria areas. In the past it was customary to call these settlements "five minutes from Kfar Saba" or "ten minutes from Jerusalem's Zion Square," since these phrases were included in the public¬ity campaigns of the various contractor firms selling apartments there. These were urban neighborhoods, "dormitory towns" near Israeli popula¬tion centers where it was possible (and still is) to purchase apartments and houses at low prices. The prospect of improving their quality of life induced tens of thousands of Israelis to invest in these settlements. The main moti¬vation was indeed economic, but in the course of time, many of them also adopted political positions favorable to the rightist parties in order to justi¬fy their moving over to live in territories beyond the Green Line. In this cat¬egory there are also a series of neighborhoods and settlements which were built on the borderline itself, for example Modi'in in the Latrun area.
This schematic distribution of settlements leads to several conclusions. If we refrain from taking into account the first category of nostalgic settlement along general lines, we will find the following numerical distribution of settlers:
In what is defined as "security settlements," the population is about 25,000, mainly in the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley.
In East Jerusalem neighborhoods there are about 150,000 Jewish residents. In the "ideological settlements" there are some 25,000 settlers (including places like Kiryat Arba and a certain percentage of people in urban settle¬ments in Samaria, like Ariel).
About 100,000 people are concentrated in the economic settlements, about half in the Jerusalem area over the Green Line and the rest mainly in West Samaria. The Ultra-Orthodox population in the two concentrations of Emmanuel and Betar are included in this category.
From a political point of view, the ideological settlers constitute a minor¬ity of the settlers in the territories, only about eight percent. At first sight, therefore, they do not appear to constitute a problem. Their great strength, and the danger emanating from them, stem from the rest of the 90 percent of settlers constituting a sort of political hinterland for them. The great majority of the settlers do not, as stated, identify with the ideological motives of the settler movement but they will be a source of support and of activism in the hour of trial. The cardinal problem of the settlements is not, therefore, ideological but lies in the fact that Israeli governments cre¬ated massive backing and support among a large sector of the public for living in the West Bank, for other non-ideological reasons. It is this which may constitute the main obstacle to a future solution.