In the aftermath of Israel's military actions in Gaza, the surge in settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has raised pressing questions about the identity, motivations, and implications of Israeli settlers. This article delves into the complex landscape of Israeli settlements, exploring their history, government backing, and the recent escalation in settler violence.
Who Are the Settlers?
Israeli settlers are citizens residing on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. With over 700,000 settlers spread across 150 settlements and 128 outposts, comprising 10% of Israel's population, their presence significantly impacts the geopolitical dynamics of the region.
The Genesis of Settlements
Following Israel's capture of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War, the first settlement, Etzion Bloc in Hebron, emerged. Since then, successive Israeli governments have actively pursued settlement construction, leading to nearly 40% of the West Bank falling under settler control.
Government Support and Funding
Contrary to international condemnation, the Israeli government openly funds and builds settlements. Settlers in the West Bank receive substantial financial support, amounting to 20 million shekels ($5 million) annually, for monitoring and restricting Palestinian construction. Recent budget requests indicate a desire to double this funding.
While settlements are a contentious issue globally, Israel has declared approximately 26% of the West Bank as "state land" where settlements can legally be established. International law, however, unequivocally deems all settlements illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Settler Violence Escalation
Recent weeks have witnessed an alarming spike in settler violence, with 241 attacks in the West Bank, forcing around 1,000 Palestinians to flee. This surge, paralleling Israel's military operations in Gaza, has intensified concerns about the security and well-being of Palestinian communities.
Separation Barrier and Control Measures
Israel maintains control over the West Bank through a 700km Separation Barrier, restricting the movement of over 3 million Palestinians. This barrier, coupled with 700 road obstacles and numerous checkpoints, creates significant challenges for Palestinian daily life.
International Response and Legal Standing
Despite widespread international condemnation and United Nations resolutions declaring settlements illegal, Israel has continued settlement expansion. The United States, Israel's close ally, has consistently shielded it from diplomatic repercussions.
The intricate web of Israeli settlements, backed by government funding and support, continues to be a focal point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The recent surge in settler violence adds urgency to addressing the complexities surrounding these settlements and their impact on regional stability.