THE 1967 WAR
In June 1967 (the 1967 War) Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the two months following the war, Israel conducted a census in the Occupied Territories. According to the census, about 1,000,000 Palestinians were there at that time: some 660,000 in the West Bank and some 350,000 in the Gaza Strip. These figures exclude all 1967 Palestinian refugees who fled or were deported by Israel during or after the war.
THE ANNEXATION OF EAST JERUSALEM
In June 1967, immediately upon occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel annexed some 7,000 hectares of West Bank land to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, an act in breach of international law.The new municipal boundaries were drawn largely in accordance with Israeli political, demographic and economic interests, designed to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. This was achieved by leaving out densely populated Palestinian areas and incorporating sparsely populated ones. The area that constituted urban Jerusalem under Jordanian rule (about 600 hectares) was only a small part of the annexed territory; most of it (about 6,400 hectares) belonged to 28 Palestinian villages and suburbs near Jerusalem. Read more.
CLOSED MILITARY ZONES: THE FIRST WAVE
From August 1967 to May 1975 Israel declared some 150,000 hectares – over a quarter of West Bank land (26.6%) – closed military zones, placing them off-limits to Palestinians unless they obtain a special permit. While closure of these areas has not been immediately or uniformly enforced, their size and geographic distribution indicated Israel’s plans to later use these areas for its own purposes.
On 1 August 1967, less than two months after the occupation began, Israel declared nine large tracts of land in the Jordan Valley closed military zones. Shortly after, Israel issued two more such orders in the Latrun area, as well as for a narrow strip of land running the eastern length of the Jordan Valley. By the end of 1967, the state had declared almost 68,500 hectares of land closed military zones.
In 1970, Israel proceeded to close off another north-south strip of the West Bank, this one running from Jericho down to the West Bank’s southern boundary. By the mid-1970s, following the closure of several areas adjoining the Green Line (the boundary between Israel’s sovereign territory and the West Bank), another 81,500 hectares of land had been officially placed off-limits to Palestinians. Read more.
SETTLEMENTS: THE FIRST DECADE
Over the course of the first ten years of the occupation, Israel established nearly thirty settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), with an overall population of some 4,500 people. As early as September 1967, the Israeli government – headed by what would later become the Labor Party – established the first settlement, Kfar Etzion. This was followed by the establishment of settlements in areas considered to be of importance in terms of security and which were relatively sparsely populated by Palestinians. These areas, which constituted nearly half of the West Bank, included the Jordan Valley, land around Jerusalem, most of the Judean Desert, and a strip of land in the South Hebron Hills. Read more.
Two highways delineated the area in which most settlements were constructed during this first decade: the Allon Road, which was built in the 1970s along the eastern slopes of the central ridge; and Route 90, to which Israel added a new section in the northern Dead Sea area in order to facilitate movement between the settlements and Israel.
In East Jerusalem, the state expropriated more than a third of the area it annexed, most of it privately owned by Palestinians. It built eight settlements on that land over the course of this decade, calling them Israeli ‘neighborhoods.’ Read more.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel designed its ‘five-finger plan’ with a view to breaking up Palestinian contiguity by establishing four settlement blocs on extensive areas of undeveloped land that Egypt – under whose rule the Gaza Strip had been prior to 1967 – had classified as government property. The southernmost ‘finger’ was to be built in the Rafah Salient, beyond the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, on then Israeli-occupied Sinai. From 1970 to 1973 Israel built four settlements in the Gaza Strip, in three of those areas.
NATURE RESERVES AND NATIONAL PARKS: THE FIRST WAVE
From 1969 to 1997, and chiefly in the 1980s, Israel declared some 34,000 hectares (approx. 6% of the West Bank) nature reserves. Under this guise of environmental concerns, Israel has been limiting Palestinian development in these areas, where it prohibits construction, pasturing flocks, and new farming.
Similarly, in the area annexed to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, Israel relied on allegedly environmental concerns in order to limit Palestinian development. In 1974, Israel founded Jerusalem Walls National Park on an area of roughly 110 hectares, more than half of it on annexed land. The park, which encircles the Old City walls and encompasses parts of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, has reduced the land available for Palestinian development. Read more.
DECLARATION OF 'STATE LAND'
During the first decade of the occupation, Israel built settlements on privately owned Palestinian land, seizing it on the grounds that it was needed for ‘military purposes.’ To this end, military seizure orders were issued for some 3,100 hectares of land in the West Bank.
Over the years Israel’s High Court of Justice has avoided addressing the issue of the illegality of settlements. Nevertheless, a ruling it handed down in 1979 made it difficult for Israel to continue building settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. To overcome this obstacle, the government came up with a new idea: declaring Palestinian land as ‘state land,’ which would make it possible to use the land to build settlements. By rewriting legal provisions and reinterpreting the existing laws, Israel introduced a fast track for declaring state land, which enabled applying this classification to lands that had been private or collective Palestinian property under both the British Mandate and Jordanian rule.
From 1979 to 1992, this system was used to declare over 90,000 hectares state land, and then allocated almost exclusively to settlements; several hundred more hectares have since been declared state land. Taken together with the areas already so designated under Jordanian rule, there are now some 120,000 hectares (22% percent of the West Bank) that have been designated state land and are under full Israeli control. Read more.
On areas declared state land, successive Likud governments (including the 1984-1988 coalition with the Labor Party) established another hundred or so settlements in densely populated Palestinian areas, with a view to achieving demographic and geographic conditions that would obstruct any future attempts to question Israeli dominance there.
The placement of the settlements cut the West Bank lengthwise along the watershed line (central mountain ridge) and adjacent areas, and created horizontal ‘settlement corridors’ across the western hills. The settlements thus broke up Palestinian physical contiguity, took over rural Palestinian space, and curtailed the development of Palestinian communities.
In order to connect settlements to one another and also facilitate movement between the settlements and Israel, the government built five east-west highways that cut across the West Bank, leading from the Green Line to the West Bank’s north-south routes. In the 1980s and 1990s, Israel also built dozens of roads along new routes in order to enable access to the settlements without having to travel through Palestinian cities and villages. Read more.
During this period, Israel also built twelve new settlements in the Gaza Strip and another three so-called neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
Israeli settlers currently farm over 10,000 hectares of Palestinian land in the West Bank. Cultivation of farmland by settlers serves Israel as a means of taking over more Palestinian land and of cementing its control in the West Bank. While land takeover by farming is not as fixed and conclusive as that achieved by the construction of permanent structures, it requires considerably less time and resources and is therefore used as a cheap and readily available complementary method for expanding the land controlled by the settlements. Read more.
RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENT: THE FIRST WAVE
In the early days of the occupation, Palestinians could travel with virtually no restriction between Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Tens of thousands of Palestinians worked in Israel; Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel maintained family ties; students from Gaza studied in West Bank universities; and there were extensive commercial ties throughout the area.
In January 1991, during the First Gulf War, Israel introduced a new requirement, demanding that any Palestinian wishing to enter Israel or East Jerusalem obtain an individual permit from the Civil Administration. The new policy was implemented gradually, until ultimately a full closure was imposed on the West Bank (apart from the areas annexed to Israel) and the Gaza strip. Israel then installed permanent checkpoints along the boundary between its sovereign territory and Gaza; between its sovereign territory and the West Bank; and between annexed East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. At the same time, Israel also made the criteria for obtaining permits far more stringent.
This policy split Palestinian land into three separate areas – the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – and travel between them became entirely dependent on Israeli discretion. Read more.
THE OSLO ACCORDS: DIVISION OF THE WEST BANK INTO AREAS A, B AND C
From 1993 to 1995, the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords. In 1994, under the Oslo I Accord, Israel withdrew its troops from Palestinian towns and refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, and from the West Bank city of Jericho. These communities were handed over to the ostensible control of the newly established Palestinian Authority.
In 1995, under the Oslo II Accord, the entire West Bank (apart from the city of Hebron) was divided into three areas, based on demographic considerations that reflected neither geographic features nor Palestinian space.
Under this division densely populated Palestinian areas were designated Areas A and B and then handed over – once more merely on paper – to the full or partial control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are non-contiguous, constituting 165 ‘islands’ scattered across the West Bank. The rest of the land, constituting some 60% of the West Bank, was designated Area C and remained under full Israeli control. Area C is contiguous and includes all Israeli settlements as well as nearly all Palestinian land reserves.
Israel relies on this division of the West Bank to foster the fiction that the Palestinian Authority is the entity primarily responsible for administering the life of the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank. In practice, however, Israel still retains control over the entire West Bank and all its residents.
Any new construction in Area C – be it building homes, industrial plants, laying water mains, or paving roads – requires Israeli approval. Israel, for its part, virtually bars Palestinian construction in Area C. Obtaining a building permit there is nearly mission impossible, even if the construction is meant to serve Palestinians living in Area A or B. Read more.
In addition, Israel still controls all crossings linking the West Bank to Israel, and the West Bank to Jordan. It also controls all roads leading to Areas A and B. Israel uses this control to restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement as it sees fit – including setting up temporary or permanent roadblocks, and keeping Palestinians detained at checkpoints – and administers a rigid and arbitrary permit regime that affects all aspects of Palestinians’ life. Read more.
THE GAZA PERIMETER FENCE
In 1994, Israel built a perimeter fence around the Gaza Strip. It thereby gained full control over the movement of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the West Bank, and the rest of the world. While there is one crossing – Rafah Crossing – that is subject to Egyptian control, taking that route to get to the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), or Jordan, entails an unreasonably long and expensive journey. Regardless, entering the West Bank from Jordan is subject to Israeli approval.
The perimeter fence consists of an electronic fence, sentry posts and patrol roads. People and goods can get into and out of Gaza via the crossings only after obtaining the necessary permits from Israel, and permits have become increasingly harder to get. As a result, daily life in Gaza has become an unremitting ordeal, completely dependent on Israel’s permit regime.
THE GAZA STRIP AND ITS SEA
Israel also controls Gaza’s sea-space. Over the years, and based solely on its own considerations, Israel has further restricted the fishing zone to varying extents, sometimes to a mere three nautical miles.
The Oslo Accords set 20 nautical miles off the Gaza coast (about 37 km) as the outside limit beyond which fishermen may not go. However, Israel has never allowed fishing farther than 12 nautical miles out to sea. In addition, Israel also restricts fishing in areas bordering Israel and Egypt. Read more.
In 1996, in response to political and international pressure, the Israeli government decided to stop establishing new settlements. Instead it adopted the new approach: ‘illegal settlement outposts.’ In theory, settlement outposts are established without official sanction. In practice, however, they receive governmental aid, protection and funding. About 100 new settlement outposts were established throughout the West Bank via this mechanism.
Although when first established the settlement outposts are small and consist of light, temporary structures, their impact far exceeds their built-up area. The settlers and the soldiers deployed to protect them use force and various intimidation tactics to keep Palestinians from accessing much of their own land when it lies near where the outpost was built. In addition, these settlers often use the Palestinians’ land themselves. This mechanism further fragments Palestinian space in the West Bank through the solidification and expansion of Israeli civilian and military presence. Read more.
RESTRICTIONS ON MOVEMENT: THE SECOND WAVE
After the Second Intifada broke out in September 2000, Israel imposed new, severe restrictions on Palestinian movement inside the Occupied Territories.In the Gaza Strip, Israel set up checkpoints that divided it into three separate areas. In the West Bank, Israel installed dozens of checkpoints and hundreds of physical obstacles, including dirt mounds, concrete blocks and ditches.
These obstacles formed the most extensive and enduring restrictions on Palestinian movement since the occupation began, disrupting all aspects of the daily lives of all residents and keeping them from leading a normal routine. Some of these obstacles have been removed and others have become permanent checkpoints. Read more.
THE SEPARATION BARRIER
In June 2002, the Israeli cabinet decided to construct the Separation Barrier. A key factor in determining the barrier’s route was the location of settlements, thereby laying the groundwork for the de facto annexation of 81 settlements (including the 11 neighborhoods built in East Jerusalem) and much land for their future expansion.
The upshot of this underlying consideration is that about 85% of the barrier’s meandering route winds through the West Bank, beyond Israel’s sovereign borders. Israel thus broke up contiguous Palestinian urban and rural blocs, severed inter-community ties that had been forged over the course of generations, and reconfigured Palestinian space in one fell swoop.
The route of the barrier – including the sections already built, and those under construction or awaiting construction – is 712 kilometers long, more than twice as long as the boundary between Israel proper and the West Bank. According to figures provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of September 2017 some 460 kilometers (about 65% of the planned barrier) had been completed. Another 53 kilometers (about 7.5%) were under construction, and construction had yet to begin on some 200 kilometers.
The Separation Barrier was built in the style of a border barrier. Along most of its route, the barrier consists of an electronic fence with paved paths, barbed-wire fences and ditches flanking it on either side, and is about 60 meters wide on average. In urban areas, instead of this type of barrier, Israel constructed an eight- to nine-meter-high concrete wall, which runs to a total length of about 70 kilometers. Read more.
THE SEPARATION BARRIER IN EAST JERUSALEM
The Separation Barrier in Jerusalem has completely sealed off the city from the rest of the West Bank, thereby stepping up East Jerusalem’s isolation from the areas that were not annexed to Israel.
Construction on the Separation Barrier in Jerusalem began in 2002, during the Second Intifada, and was completed in 2016. Most of the barrier in the Jerusalem area takes the form of a high concrete wall, in some places actually abutting Palestinian homes. Unlike the checkpoints that the military erected some ten years earlier deep within the West Bank, the barrier completely sealed off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, heightening its separation from the unannexed areas.
This was the result of the chief consideration underlying the planned outline of the barrier: keeping it as much as possible along the municipal boundaries – which annexed West Bank land – in order to ensure control over the annexed land. However, until the barrier was built, the municipal boundaries had few or no practical implications for the people living in Jerusalem and its environs. Palestinian communities in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank had ties that crossed municipal lines, including trade, culture, education and health services. When the barrier was built, it abruptly cut though this vibrant fabric of Palestinian life.
In keeping with the underlying consideration that governed Israel’s decision in drawing up Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries in 1967 – annexing as much land with as few Palestinians as possible – when the barrier’s route was planned it deviated from the municipal boundaries in a number of places: In three areas, the route of the barrier extends beyond the municipal boundaries, going further into the West Bank and taking over sparsely populated Palestinian areas. In two other areas, the route of the barrier was placed within the municipal boundaries, thereby leaving out – on the other side of the barrier – about 40% of Jerusalem’s Palestinian population (some 140,000 people). These two areas have become a no man’s land, suffering from severe neglect as well as extreme restrictions on their movement due to the checkpoints that lie between them and the rest of the city. Ultimately this all resulted in a winding route that adds up to some 202 kilometers in length as it circles in and around the area of Jerusalem. Read more.
CLOSED MILITARY ZONES: THE SECOND WAVE
In 1997, Israel declared all settlement jurisdiction areas – totaling some 54,000 hectares, almost a tenth of the West Bank – military zones that are off-limits to Palestinians. Overall there are now some 176,500 hectares of land, almost a third of the entire West Bank, that are declared closed military zones.
The settlement jurisdiction areas far exceed the settlements’ actual built-up space. Even though the closure order has not been consistently enforced, it prevents any form of Palestinian development on these lands while securing them for future settlement use.
During the Second Intifada, Israel declared as closed military zones additional land between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line (known as ‘the seam zone’), and also swathes of land around a number of settlements (Special Security Areas). These closure orders added approximately 18,000 more hectares to the areas officially closed to Palestinians in the West Bank.
From the early 1990s and until the beginning of 2015, the closure of some 36,400 hectares was withdrawn, mostly pursuant to the division of the West Bank when the Oslo Accords were signed. Read more.
NATURE RESERVES AND NATIONAL PARKS: THE SECOND WAVE
There are currently almost 30,000 hectares of declared nature reserves on West Bank land designated Area C. Some 4,000 hectares of land that had been declared nature reserves remained in Areas A and B.
In 2000 and 2013 three more national parks were declared within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. These parks include privately owned Palestinian land as well as land that lies within or adjacent to the built-up areas of Palestinian neighborhoods and villages and prevent their development or expansion. Read more.
DISENGAGEMENT FROM GAZA
In September 2005, Israel completed its so-called disengagement from the Gaza Strip. It dismantled all its settlements there, withdrew its military forces and declared the end of its military rule in the Gaza Strip.
Although Israel declared an end to its military administration in Gaza, it continues to control critical aspects of life there. It controls all land crossings, apart from Rafah, as well as Gaza’s sea and air space. Consequently, Israel has virtually complete control over the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. This is the case even when Gaza residents wish only to transit through Israel in order to reach the West Bank or other countries. Read more.
In the summer of 2007, after Hamas took over power in the Gaza Strip, Israel used its control over the crossings to impose a blockade on Gaza. It thereby made of the almost two million people who live there prisoners within the Gaza Strip, brought about Gaza’s economic collapse and made its population dependent on international aid.
Under its blockade policy, Israel prohibits travel into and out of Gaza, places limitations on the import of various products into Gaza, and severely restricts the export of goods. Israel also prohibits the construction of a seaport that would allow free movement of people and goods, and prevents the rebuilding of Gaza’s airport, destroyed in an Israeli air strike in 2001.
The blockade has led to the collapse of Gaza’s economy. Most factories and hundreds of businesses have shut down. Nearly 80% of the population now rely on humanitarian aid from international organizations, and 60% suffer food insecurity. The impact of the blockade can be seen in Gaza having some of the highest unemployment rates in the world, reaching upwards of 40% overall, and 60% among younger adults.
Gaza’s infrastructure and public services are in dire straits. About 95% of the water pumped locally is contaminated and unpotable. Electricity is supplied to the residents only a few hours a day. The power shortage also impacts water and sewage facilities, which must have power all the time and become virtually non-operational on an intermittent power supply. In addition, due to power shortages and chronic deficiency in medical equipment and supplies, the medical services available in the Gaza Strip fall far short of meeting the needs of the population, and many critical treatments are unavailable locally. Read more.
Since the so-called disengagement of 2005, Israel has launched three campaigns in the Gaza Strip, calling them military operations: Operation Cast Lead (December 2008-January 2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012) and Operation Protective Edge (July-August 2014).
In these military campaigns, Israel killed thousands of people – including hundreds of children – destroyed thousands of structures and severely harmed infrastructure that was already on the brink of collapse, exacerbating the already dire situation in Gaza. The continued blockade prevents reconstruction, and tens of thousands of persons are still homeless in Gaza.
It was over fifty years ago that Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, part of which it annexed to Jerusalem. To this day, it continues to control these areas and the people living there. For over half a century, Israel has created a reality of dispossession, oppression and human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank.
In order to expand and consolidate control over the lands it occupied, Israel has applied myriad military, civilian, legal and administrative measures through which it has torn apart Palestinian space, divided the Palestinian population into dozens of disconnected enclaves and unraveled its social, cultural and economic fabric.
The Gaza Strip was converted by Israel into the world’s largest open-air prison. In the West Bank, Israel allocated to settlements most of the rural area outside the Palestinian enclaves, including land in the area it annexed to Jerusalem, bringing about a fragmentation of Palestinian space and resulting in Israeli takeover of the land.
The disparate units Israel has created in the Occupied Territories differ from one another, based on how Israel defines them, the status it has accorded their residents and its plans for each area. Regardless, for over fifty years, all the Palestinians suffer a daily reality of dispossession and oppression under Israel’s control. Israel runs their lives, denies them political rights and a voice in determining their future.