II. Development of Israeli Settlements in OPT
Israel's Settlement Program
[See Map1 - Map2 - Map3 - Map4 - Map5 - Map6]
"The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." -- Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
This Article, as many more of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel did not abide by. Since day one of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli authorities designed and implemented several programs to populate the OPT with Jewish settlers. The plans differed through time, but they always had the same purpose, that is to settle Jewish immigrants on Palestinian lands.
The consecutive Israeli governments (Labor, Likud and Kadima) relentlessly persued implementation of the settlements program in the OPT in order to consolidate the Israeli State's control over the land and consequently preclude the possible emergence of a Palestinian State.
The Israeli government, through the construction of the settlements, intended to establish sovereignty and security and to define territorial limits. However,the settlements not only exist for the purpose of 'defining territorial limits of the Israeli State', but also for validating and legitimizing the existence of the Israeli army in the OPT. The justification for army's presence is for the protection of the illegal Israeli settlers, whom without "the Israeli Army would be just an invading army ruling over foreign population", as stated by Moshe Dayan, former Israeli Defense Minister.
The Israeli settlement program is a major and permanent issue on the agenda of the consecutive Israeli governments even though the Israeli settlements are in direct violation of the international law. The construction of Israeli settlements in the OPT also follows a pattern, which has become more obvious in time, and that pattern's aim is to cut off Palestinian localities from one other and to restrict these same localities from expanding, by controlling as much lands as possible.
Consequently, the Israeli settlements constitute a corner stone of the Israeli policy in the OPT; it impedes the unfavorable choice for Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied during the 1967-war, in compliance with UN Resolution 242 of 1967.
The consecutive Israeli governments spared no expanses to push the settlements program forward, either through expansion of settlements or through all their related activities, such as outposts,3 bypass roads,4 corridors,5 etc. By these means, the Palestinian towns and villages are now wrapped up and cut off, and also after 2002 the segregation wall tightened the wrap on many Palestinian towns making some of them look like a big prison.
Through its different policies regarding land, be it confiscation or declaration of closed areas, etc., Israel now has effective control over 57% of the West Bank, land which is now out of Palestinian reach. On these lands reside about 480,000 Jewish Settlers in 207 Israeli settlements, and 217 settlement outposts.
Israeli Settlement Plans
[See Map1 - Map2 - Map3 - Map4]
Directly after the 1967-War Yigal Allon, head of the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Colonies at that time, prepared a plan to segregate the OPT from Jordan, with an intention to turn the Jordan River into political and security boundary for Israel. Within the Jordan Valley area, the plan called for the construction of a bloc of Israeli colonies at a width of approximately 20 km as a first step towards their formal annexation to the State of Israel. The string of colonies, which covered the Palestinian areas were constructed around East Jerusalem, the Etzion Block to the south of Bethlehem, most of the Jordan Valley, and a strip of Palestinian lands south of Hebron. As a result of implementing the Allon plan, Israel gained control over 50% of the West Bank lands.
The Drobles Plan
In 1977, Matitiyahu Drobles, head of the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division, prepared a comprehensive plan for the establishment of colonies throughout the West Bank. Most of the colonies that were established as part of the Drobles plan were constructed on the central mountain ridge around Palestinian population centers. The Drobles Plan embraced the aims of Gush Emunim and signaled a governmental shift away from the Allon Plan. This shift correlated to the Likud Party coming to power in Israel.
The former Israeli Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon (1977-1981) (and former Israeli Prime Minister) modified and expanded the Drobles Plan and Gush Emunim, by intensifying colonization along the Green Line in order to secure the borders between the West Bank and Israel.
The Sharon Plan also called for increasing the colonization along the central mountain ridge. According to the Sharon Plan, only a small number of high density Palestinian communities were not to be under Israeli sovereignty in the future. The Allon Plan dealt with the 'demographic problem' posed to Israel by the Palestinian population through avoidance, whereas, the Sharon Plan continued the more aggressive policies that relied on removal and transfer of the Palestinian population out of the OPT. The ultimate aim of the Sharon Plan was the annexation of the West Bank, excluding small densely populated Palestinian enclaves.
Following the preparation of Sharon's plan, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Construction and Housing established ten colonies on the western slopes of the central mountain ridge in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem. Sharon's vision also included preventing the contiguity of developed Palestinian areas along the Green Line, by disconnecting and segregating the West Bank in areas north of Nablus, west of Jenin, and north of Ramallah, from the Palestinian communities adjacent to the Green Line within Israel. According to his vision, this disconnection would be accomplished by the creation and construction of sets of Israeli colonies on those areas. Sharon also planned to create corridors of colonies and a network of bypass roads all over the West Bank, connecting the 1949-Armistice Line (Green Line) with the Jordan Valley.
Unilateral Israeli 'Disengagement Plan' from Gaza Strip and Four West Bank Settlements 6
The former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first announced his vision of the Gaza 'disengagement' plan at the 2004 Herzliya Conference. Failing to gain public support from senior ministers, Sharon agreed that the Likud party would hold a referendum on the plan prior to an Israeli Cabinet vote.
The referendum was held on May 2, 2004 and ended with 65% of people voting against the 'Disengagement Plan', despite most polls showing approximately 55% of Likud members supporting the Plan before the referendum. Sharon himself announced that he accepted the Likud referendum results and would take time to consider his steps. He ordered the Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz to create an amended plan which Likud voters could accept.
On June 6, 2004, Sharon's government approved an amended 'Disengagement Plan' and on October 26, 2004 the Knesset gave preliminary approval for the Plan.
The Israeli Cabinet had already, on September 14, 2004, approved plans to suitably compensate settlers who agreed to depart the Gaza Strip. Consequently, at midnight between August 14, and August 15, 2005, the Kissufim crossing was shut down, and the Gaza Strip became officially closed to Israelis. The voluntarily evacuation process continued after midnight of August 17, 2005, for the settlers who asked for an extension for packing their things.
On August 17, 2005, the first forced evacuation of settlers, as part of the 'disengagement', started. About 14,000 Israeli soldiers and police personal prepared to forcibly evacuate settlers, and by August 22, 2005 Netzarim was peacefully evacuated by the Israeli military.
The complete Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip took place in the early morning of September 12, 2005, when the last soldier left the Strip and the Kissufim gate was closed [see map].
Israeli 'Disengagement Plan' from Four West Bank Settlements
As a part of the Israeli Unilateral Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, the evacuation of four-northern West Bank Israeli settlements (Kadeem- Ganeem- Homesh – Sanur) was accomplished unilaterally on August 23, 2004 [see map]. The Israeli settlers of Ganeem and Kadeem voluntarily evacuated their settlements. The settlers of Homesh and Sanur initially showed some resistance but they were eventually evacuated from the settlements. 7
Post 'Disengagement' Era
Despite the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip, Israel is still in control all of Gaza's borders, including air and sea, as written in Sharon's Disengagement Plan: General Outline, issued on April 18, 2004 and again on January 25, 2005. "Israel will guard and monitor the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, will continue to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, and will continue to exercise security activity in the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip." 8
In the Gaza Strip, there are 4 border terminals and one new trade passage (installed after the Israeli withdrawal). All of these Terminals fall under the complete control of Israel, and they keep them closed most of the time, except Rafah Border Terminal, which is under international supervision. These Terminals are:
Rafah Border Terminal: Located on the southwest of the Gaza strip as a cross passage between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Karni Border Terminal: A crossing that falls to the east of Gaza City on the demarcation line between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Erez Border Terminal: Located north of the Gaza Strip.
Sufia Border Terminal: Located southeast to Khan Yunis.
Kerem Shalom Trade Passage: A newly established passage, installed after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip. It is located to the south-east of the Gaza Strip, inside Israel.
The IOF are imprisoning nearly 1.5 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Although the Strip is surrounded and completely cut off from the outside world, Sharon's plan states that there will be no basis for claiming that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory. Despite Sharon's proclamations, international law confirms the opposite.
Particularly after the withdrawal, economic activity has been hindered by Israeli procedures, closures and obstacles, while export and import remain under Israeli control. As included in Sharon's document, the Israelis control the entry and exit of workers and of goods between the territories concerned, in addition to the monetary regime, tax, customs, the postal service and other forms of communication. 9
After the implementation of the 'Disengagement Plan', people living in the Gaza Strip are still subject to the effective control of the Israeli army, for it alone retains control over Gaza's airspace, sea shore, and border crossings.
This level of control and the fact that Israel occupies 17% of the Gaza Strip confirms that Israel is an occupying power. In fact, as long as any of the lands captured by Israel during the 1967-war remain under its control, Israel remains an occupying power. Rather than viewing withdrawal as 'Disengagement', we should view it as a 'Redeployment of Forces'. The Gaza Strip remains under the control of an occupying power. Furthermore, Palestinian sovereignty could not be attained until there is effective Palestinian control over land and boarders.