The term “Settlements” usually refers to the towns and villages that Jews have established in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip since Israel captured the area in the Six-Day War of 1967. In many cases, the settlements are in the same area which flourishing Jewish communities have lived for thousands of years.
Following Israel’s resounding defeat of the invading Arab armies in the Six-Day War, strategic concerns led both of Israel’s major political parties – the Labor and Likud – to support and establish settlements at various times. The first settlements were built by Labor governments from 1968 to 1977, with the explicit objective to secure a Jewish majority in key strategic regions of the West Bank — such as the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem corridor — that were the scene of heavy fighting in several of the Arab-Israeli wars. In 1968, only five sparsely populated settlements existed beyond the Green Line.
The second wave of settlement construction began with the 1968 occupation of the Park Hotel in Hebron, a city with a long, rich Jewish history dating back to biblical times that had only been interrupted by a massacre of Jewish residents by Arabs in 1929. During Passover 1968, Rabbi Moshe Levinger and his wife, Miriam, rented a hotel for 10 days in the center of Hebron and invited 30 families to stay with them. In 1971, the government relocated them to Kiryat Arba, a former military base on edge of the city.
Those who came to Hebron in 1968 were the first of the ideological settlers who believed that Israel’s victory the prior year was an act of God which indicated divine providence that the historic Land of Israel should be restored to the Jewish people. In 1972, followers of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and his Gush Emunim movement established the settlement of Kiryat Arba just outside Hebron. Very few such religious/ideological settlements were established until Menachem Begin was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1977. Begin’s government, as well as subsequent Likud-led governments, provided financial incentives for Jews to move to parts of Judea and Samaria that did not necessarily have any strategic value. Their purpose was to solidify Israel’s hold on territory that was part of biblical and historical Israel and preempt the creation of a Palestinian state. Just after the 1977 election, 1,900 Jews were living in 38 settlements.
A third group of Jews who are today considered “settlers,” moved to the West Bank primarily for economic reasons; that is, the government provided financial incentives to live there, and the towns were close to their jobs. In recent years, many of these Jews have come from more religious communities because of housing shortages in places such as Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. An estimated 118,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews now live in settlements such as Beitar Illit and Modi’in Illit. […]
Currently, about 58 percent of Israelis living in the West Bank live in just five settlement blocs — Ma’aleh Adumim, Modi’in Ilit, Ariel, Gush Etzion, Givat Ze’ev — which, with the exception of Ariel, all lie within only a few miles of the 1949 armistice line … otherwise known as the
Green Line. […]
Though the media and Israel’s detractors have falsely suggested that Israel has been building settlements for years when not a single new settlement was approved by the government for 25 years until March 30, 2017. On that date, the Israeli Security Cabinet gave their unanimous approval to begin the construction of a new settlement near Shiloh. […]
The estimate for the Jewish population in 131 West Bank settlements in 2018 was 449,697, roughly 5 percent of Israel’s total population…. The overall area in dispute is very small. According to one organization critical of settlements, the built-up areas constitute only 1.7% of the West Bank. That is less than 40 square miles.
– The text above is excerpted from “Facts About the Jewish Settlements in the West Bank” (by Mitchell G. Bard, Jewish Virtual Library). To view the resource in its entirety, click here.
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