12

How many new settlements did Israel build in the last decade in the West Bank? I mean I've seen many news about Israeli settlement "expansion" in various international media but when looked into it all turned out building new houses within the borders of already existing settlements.

So was there even any new settlements in the - let's say - last decade? If yes then how many?

When was the last settlement built?

  • 4
    Get ready for some very biased answers for israelis and maybe for palestinians. Are you talking of legal or illegal settlements? – Joze Jul 31 '15 at 13:13
  • Mostly legal ones as those are directly approved by the governement and also when the media writes about Israeli expansion they almost always mean the legal settlements. The number of illegal settlements can also be interesting but only with the context of the number of illegal settlements closed by the government. – David Herskovics Jul 31 '15 at 15:10
  • @DavidHerskovics This is really hard to answer based on the various ways one could interpret the question. I'm going to need clarification. Are you asking when the last settlement block was established by Israel? Are you asking when the last individual housing unit was constructed by Israel, and how many per year usually are? Are you lasting when the last Israeli settlement of any kind was constructed and how many of those there are, even if it's just some random guy putting a trailer on a hill? – Avi Jul 31 '15 at 19:16
  • 1
    I have not a full grasp of the situation, but some information can be found on B'Tselem, an Israeli NGO that says there were not officially new settlements, but Settlement Outposts: The outposts do not have official government recognition, although many of them were established with governmental assistance. Outposts are generally smaller than recognized settlements. Also increase in settlement population may be significant to your question. – gabriele Aug 1 '15 at 9:58
  • 1
    @Avi I'm interested in those cases which could really be described as expansion - a random guy putting up a trailer or individual housings built within the borders of already existing settlement doesn't count as expansion IMO. If a more precise definition is needed then lets try with the following: I define expansion when the governement expropriate new lands and build new housings there. Is this defintion precise enough and does it describe the expansion process well enough? – David Herskovics Aug 1 '15 at 21:09
14

When answering this question, it's useful to clarify a few things.

First, it's important to clarify what we mean by a "settlement". As you learned in the comments, there are settlements and settlement outposts. Settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law, and are established without the explicit permission of the Israeli government. They tend to be illegal, and most would be uprooted in all Israeli proposals for a two-state solution.

Settlement blocks, suburbs of East Jerusalem, and cities in the West Bank, however, are established either by the Israeli government or with its permission. These settlements can often have populations of tens of thousands, like Ma'ale Adumim or Modi'in Illit, and the Israeli government will, with some regularity, announce the construction of new housing units within or near these settlements.

Israel intends to keep these settlements, even if a Palestinian state would be created, and most frameworks for a two-state solution call for a solution based on the 1949 armistice lines with mutually agreed land swaps such that Israel can retain some of its settlements.

It is worth noting that Israel does not consider suburbs of East Jerusalem settlements, as Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. However, the Palestinian Authority and the International Community consider all settlements -- whether outposts, cities, or suburbs of East Jerusalem -- illegal under international law. But that's a whole other discussion.

Second, it is important to clarify what we mean by settlement growth. Settlement growth can be measured in two ways; it can be measured by population growth, or by growth in terms of physical area covered by settlement infrastructure.

Since Oslo, the population of settlements (including areas of East Jerusalem) has grown substantially. In 1993, there were under 200,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, whereas now there are over 500,000.

East Jerusalem and Settlement Population Growth

Critics of Israeli settlements will sometimes use these statistics to argue that Israel is attempting a de facto annexation of the West Bank, and that growth in settlements constitutes a land grab. However, to analyze this claim, we have to look at not just the population growth of settlements, but their growth in terms of land area.

In terms of land area, settlements have not grown meaningfully since the Oslo Accords, comprising around 2% of West Bank land area. This is because Israeli has not established new settlement blocks since the Oslo Accords, but instead accommodates population growth in settlements through construction in existing settlements.

We can see additional evidence of the relative lack of growth of Israeli Settlements in terms of land area by examining Israel's offers to the Palestinians and seeing how much land area Israel was willing to cede. Under an Israeli offer in the 2000 Camp David Summit, Israel would have retained around 9% of the West Bank, before counting land swaps. Under Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's offer to the Palestinians in 2008, Israel would have retained 6.8% of the West Bank, before land swaps.

As you can see, there are a number of ways to measure Israeli settlement expansion, and using just one measurement wouldn't give you the whole picture. The most succinct way to answer your question would be to say that Israeli settlements have been growing in population, with hundreds of housing units constructed per year, but that they have not been growing in terms of land area.

  • 1
    Thank you for your detailed answer. Especially, the aijac link was really useful. – David Herskovics Aug 6 '15 at 10:28
  • @DavidHerskovics No problem. I actually tried to use that link in a very limited way because it's obviously not a neutral source, but it has a lot of information, so I'm glad you found it useful. – Avi Aug 6 '15 at 13:24
6

It is true what Avi writes that the Israeli government didn't themselves establish any new settlements in the last decade (2005 - 2015). But a lot of settlements built without the governments permission were retroactively legalized.

For example, the Ma'ale Adumim settlement which is the largest on the West Bank began life in 1975 as an "illegal outpost". Illegal in the sense that it was built without government permission, but the international community of course considers all settlements illegal. Many of the large Israeli settlements got started in the same way.

So, if we consider the number of illegal settlements legalized in the period 2005 - 2016, the total is at least 32 new settlements. Here is a list of them, when they were established and when they were authorized. Note that the authorization year can be tricky to decide because the legalization process can be a lengthy multi-year thing:

  • 'Adi Ad (est. 1999, leg. 2016) 2
  • Ahiya (est. 1997, leg. 2016) 2
  • Aish Kodesh (est. 2000, leg. 2016) 2
  • Bruchin (est. 1998, leg. 2012) 1
  • Derek Ha'Avot (est. 2001, leg. 2014) 1
  • Elmatan (est. 2000, leg. 2012) 1
  • Elisha (est. 1999, leg. 2014) 1
  • Givat HaBrecha (est. 1997, leg. 2008) 1
  • Givat HaDagan (est. 2000, leg. 2011) 1
  • Givat HaTamar (est. 2002, leg. 2013) 1
  • Givat Salit (est. 2001, leg. 2012) 1
  • Haresha (est. 1995, leg. 2011) 1
  • HaRoeh (est. 2002, leg. 2013) 1
  • HaYovel (est. 1998, leg. 2011) 1
  • Horesh Yaron (est. 1997, leg. 2016)
  • Kfar Eldad (est. 1998, leg. 2011) 1
  • Kida (est. 2003, leg. 2016) 2
  • Ma'aleh Rehav'am (est. 2001, leg. 2014) 1
  • Mitzpeh Danny (est. 1999, leg. 2016) 2 4
  • Mitzpeh Eshtamoa (est. 2003, leg. 2011) 1
  • Mitzpeh Lachish (est. 2002, leg. 2013) 1
  • Neveh Erez (est. 1999, leg. 2016) 2
  • New Migron (est. 1999-2001, leg. 2009) 1 3
  • Nahlei Tal (est. 2012, leg. 2013) 1
  • Nofei Nehemia (est. 2001, leg. 2012) 1
  • Ramat Gilad (est. 2001, leg. 2013) 1
  • Rechelim (est. 1991, leg. 2012) 1
  • Sansana (est. 1999, leg. 2012) 1
  • Sdeh Bar (est. 1998, leg. 2005) 1
  • Shvut Rachel (est. 1991, leg. 2011) 1
  • Tal Menashe (est. 2000, leg. 2008) 1
  • Zait Ra'anan (est. 2001, leg. 2013) 1
  1. http://peacenow.org.il/sites/default/files/NewSettlementsList1.xls
  2. https://settlementwatcheastjerusalem.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/2015-in-settlements1.pdf
  3. http://www.haaretz.com/news/settlers-agree-to-relocate-migron-outpost-to-nearby-settlement-1.258118
  4. http://www.poica.org/details.php?Article=9223

This is settlement growth outside of Jerusalem. Settlement expansion in Jerusalem is hard to get a firm grasp of. Should building a Jewish suburb count as a settlement or not even though it will contain more settlers than most smaller settlements? Jerusalem is one big expanding city.

  • +1: informative, I was almost convinced by Avi's answer; this really helps clarify the situation. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 15 '17 at 23:56
  • 1
    I feel like I should clarify a bit what I meant in my answer. I wasn't saying that no new settlements were constructed, because what constitutes a single settlement isn't really clear. Instead, I was saying that no new settlement blocks were constructed, as those tend to refer to well-defined areas. Existing blocks, as I said, have expanded, and some of that expansion has been due to the incorporation of illegal outposts. (Additionally, new illegal outposts have also been constructed). But that growth would be counted in the population and land usage numbers. – Avi Dec 22 '17 at 19:40
  • 1
    Right, my answer wasn't intended to invalidate or contradict yours. Just to fill in the gaps with what I knew about the illegal outputs. The allegation in Mozibur Ullah's comment is in poor form. – Björn Lindqvist Dec 26 '17 at 21:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.