Typically, a Jewish settlement is built on a hill-top, for security reasons say those who live there, surrounded by a buffer zone made up of land that cannot be farmed and roads that Palestinians cannot use.
Settlements like these take up nearly 40 percent of the West Bank but, under international law, they are illegal. “We found that 73,000 new housing units are in the plans that are already made by the Ministry of Housing,” says Hagit Ofran, project director at the Isareli pacifict NGO, Peace Now. “We believe that if such plans are going to be implemented this could really prevent a two-state solution, and actually any solution to our conflict.” In the absence of a peace deal, existing agreements, including the Oslo Accords, demand a freeze on settlement construction. But in reality, building has never stopped in the past 20 years. And it isn’t just in the eye of the international law that many of these settlements are illegal: 75 of Jewish settlements in the West Bank are built without Israeli permission. They are mostly surrounded by the West Bank Wall – it, too, illegal. In 2005, Benjamin Netanyahu, then finance minister under Ariel Sharon, resigned in protest at the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the dismantling of settlements. At the time, he warned that, soon, rocket attacks would hit the Israeli towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon. Even though History is proving him right today, the question is whether Netanyahu will continue to oppose the destruction of Jewish settlements, and go against the advice of Israel’s main ally, Washington. It all depends on his coalition allies, who could include nationalist parties like Arieh Eldad’s National Union. “The government of Netanyahu should understand that Jews are allowed to live everywhere in their homeland and the land of Israel,” says Arieh Eldad. “The Palestinians should have one national state and that is Jordan – and they have one already. They do not need two states,” he adds. The Oslo Accords didn’t end the colonisation of the Palestinian territories or help create a Palestinian state. Building continued in the name of security, and many analysts believe today’s control of Gaza by Hamas will only serve to reinforce such logic.