Israeli settlers have built settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) with the political, military, and financial support of the government. The settlements were built for ideological, military and financial reasons. Today 38,3 percent of the land in the West Bank is beyond reach for Palestinians for a variety of reasons, including settlements, settlement-related infrastructure etc. 9.3 percent of West Bank land is under the municipal jurisdiction of the settlements.
Only a few months after the Six-Day War in 1967, the first Israeli settlement, Kfar Etzion, was established in the West Bank.
As of the end of 2008, 121 Israeli settlements have been constructed in the West Bank. In 2005, 16 settlements in the Gaza Strip, together with four settlements in the northern West Bank were evacuated by Israel as part of the “Disengagement Plan”. Prior to the evacuation 7,595 settlers controlled 38 percent of the Gaza Strip.
In addition, Jerusalem is surrounded by 12 settlements, considered by Israel as neighbourhoods within the Jerusalem municipality. According to international law, the Jerusalem neighbourhoods on the east side of the Green Line, which until 1967 belonged to Jordan (“East Jerusalem”), are built on occupied territory .
The built-up area of settlements consists of less than 3 percent of the area of the West Bank, but the area under, their municipal jurisdiction, constitutes 9,3 percent of the West Bank.
By July 2009, the number of settlers has reached about 300,000 in the West Bank and around additional 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The annual growth rate of the settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) is 4.7 percent compared to a population growth rate of less than 2 percent inside Israel.
There are approximately 100 additional settlements, referred to in the media as “outposts” that are unrecognised even under Israeli law. The term describes a relatively new, small settlement with a few residential structures, or caravans. Often outposts are built on hilltops close to a recognised veteran settlement, although others have been established in more remote locations. These outposts fill in the space between official settlements and create big settlement blocks, which will render future evacuation more complex. 60 percent of the outposts were established under Ariel Sharon's Cabinet in 2001.
Most outposts aim at becoming recognised settlements. The Israeli Ministry of Interior does not grant them formal recognition, municipal status or building permits, however the State usually does not enforce demolition orders against outposts. Furthermore, public authorities have in some cases issued permits for connection to water and electricity networks . Residents of outposts are entitled to IDF proctection. Also inside recognised settlements structures built without building permits are to be found. Also for this construction, illegal even under Israeli domestic law, the implementation of demolition orders is exceptional.
Unauthorized construction in settlements
In February 2009, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz managed to obtain a previously secret database from the Israeli Defense Ministry, which is based on information from the Civil Administration. It contains information regarding unauthorized construction in the settlements, sometimes on a large scale, which had been carried out without permits, or contrary to given permits. It also revealed that extensive construction had been carried out on private Palestinian lands, something which the Israeli authorities previously had denied. Established veteran settlements, like Ofra and Beit El, as well as newer ones like Modi’in Ilit and Givat Ze’ev, were stated as violating building norms and ignoring issues of land ownership – just like the unauthorized outposts. The report attests to the poor functioning of the Civil Administration in the West Bank and how the Israeli government turned a blind eye - or even itself committed building violations through its Ministry of Housing and Construction.
To database (in Hebrew)
English translation of excerpts from the database from the Israeli Human Rights organisation Yesh Din
To the Haaretz article (in English)
Read more about the Civil Administration
The information published by Haaretz confirms facts that organizations like Peace Now previously have referred to in their reports, facts, which have always been refuted by official Israeli sources.
According to a report published by Peace Now in 2006, and updated in March 2007, over 30 % of settlement lands are owned by private Palestinians. In terms of numbers, 131 settlements, including outposts, are built on private land.
To the Peace Now Report "One Offence Begets Another", November 2006
To Peace Now's web site
To Peace Now's report "Illegal construction in the settlements - The list of demolition orders" (December 2007, 151 kB)
The Sasson Report on “Unauthorized Outposts”
The government of Israel makes a distinction between settlements and outposts, based on domestic legislation. The outposts are not established after decision by the Israeli government, and an official authorization has not been granted.
In March 2001, Israel made a commitment to the US government to evacuate unauthorized outposts according to a specific list.
In March 2005, a report was published by attorney Talia Sasson, from the State Attorney’s office, identifying 105 outposts as "unauthorized".
Included in the report were recommendations that all outposts built on Palestinian owned land - which at least amounts 15 - be dismantled immediately and that the Defense Ministry should be prohibited from connecting outposts to electricity and water supplies.
To the English summary of the report issued by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office (300 kB)
UN report on the humanitarian consequences of the settlements
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) has released an extensive report examining the humanitarian impact of Israeli settlements on Palestinian life.
Read more about the report