The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية aḍ-Ḍiffah l-Ġarbiyyah; Hebrew: הגדה המערבית HaGadah HaMa'aravit or יהודה ושומרון Yehuda VeShomron) is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, bordered by Jordan to the east and by Israel to the south, west and north. The West Bank also contains a significant section of the western Dead Sea shore.
The "West Bank" name was given to the territory after it was captured by Jordan in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War because it sits on the west side of the Jordan river. Jordan subsequently annexed the territory in 1950 and held it until 1967 when it was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Oslo Accords, signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, created administrative districts with varying levels of Palestinian autonomy within each area. Area C, in which Israel maintained complete civil and security control, accounts for over 60% of the territory of the West Bank.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has a land area of 5,640 km2 plus a water area of 220 km2, consisting of the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea. As of July 2017 it has an estimated population of 2,747,943 Palestinians, and approximately 391,000 Israeli settlers, and approximately another 201,200 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. The International Court of Justice advisory ruling (2004) concluded that events that came after the 1967 occupation of the West Bank by Israel, including the Jerusalem Law, Israel's peace treaty with Jordan and the Oslo Accords, did not change the status of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as occupied territory with Israel as the occupying power.
The name West Bank is a translation of the Arabic term ad-Diffah I-Garbiyyah, given to the territory west of the Jordan River that fell, in 1948, under occupation and administration by Jordan, which subsequently annexed it in 1950. This annexation was considered illegal and was recognized only by Britain, Iraq and Pakistan. The term was chosen to differentiate the west bank of the River Jordan from the "east bank" of this river.
The neo-Latin name Cisjordan or Cis-Jordan (literally "on this side of the River Jordan") is the usual name for the territory in the Romance languages and Hungarian. The name West Bank, however, has become the standard usage for this geopolitical entity in English and some of the other Germanic languages since its creation following the Jordanian army's conquest.
In English, the name Cisjordan is occasionally used to designate the entire region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, particularly in the historical context of the British Mandate and earlier times. The analogous Transjordan (literally "on the other side of the River Jordan") has historically been used to designate the region now roughly comprising the state of Jordan, which lies to the east of the Jordan River.
At the 1920 San Remo conference, the victorious Allied powers (France, UK, USA, etc.) allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine (1920–47). The San Remo Resolution adopted on 25 April 1920 incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It and Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations were the basic documents upon which the British Mandate for Palestine was constructed. The British proclaimed Abdullah emir of Transjordan on 11 April 1921. He declared it an independent Hashemite kingdom on 25 May 1946.
In 1947, it was subsequently designated as part of a proposed Arab state by the United Nations (UN) partition plan for Palestine. The resolution recommended partition of the British Mandate into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally administered enclave of Jerusalem; a broader region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State. The resolution designated the territory described as "the hill country of Samaria and Judea" (the area now known as the "West Bank") as part of the proposed Arab state, but following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War this area was captured by Transjordan (renamed Jordan three years after independence in 1946).
The 1949 Armistice Agreements defined the interim boundary between Israel and Jordan (essentially reflecting the battlefield after the war). Following the December 1948 Jericho Conference, Transjordan annexed the area west of the Jordan River in 1950, naming it "West Bank" or "Cisjordan", and designated the area east of the river as "East Bank" or "Transjordan". Jordan (as it was now known) ruled over the West Bank from 1948 until 1967. Jordan's annexation was never formally recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Iraq. A two-state option, dividing Palestine, as opposed to a binary solution arose during the period of the British mandate in the area. The United Nations Partition Plan had envisaged two states, one Jewish and the other Arab/Palestinian, but in the wake of the war only one emerged at the time. During the 1948 war, Israel occupied parts of what was designated in the UN partition plan as “Palestine”. King Abdullah of Jordan had been crowned King of Jerusalem by the Coptic Bishop on 15 November 1948. Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were granted Jordanian citizenship and half of the Jordanian Parliament seats.
Many refugees continued to live in camps and relied on UNRWA assistance for sustenance. Palestinian refugees constituted more than a third of the kingdom's population of 1.5 million. The last Jordanian elections in which West Bank residents would vote were those of April 1967, but their parliamentary representatives would continue in office until 1988, when West Bank seats were finally abolished. Palestinians enjoyed equal opportunities in all sectors of the state without discrimination. Agriculture remained the primary activity of the territory. The West Bank, despite its smaller area, contained half of Jordan's agricultural land. In 1966, 43% of the labor force of 55,000 worked in agriculture, and 2,300 km2 were under cultivation. In 1965, 15,000 workers were employed in industry, producing 7% of the GNP. This number fell after the 1967 war, and would not be surpassed until 1983. The tourism industry also played an important role. 26 branches of 8 Arab banks were present. The Jordanian dinar became legal tender, and remains so there today. 80% of Jordan's fruit-growing land and 40% of its vegetables lay in the West Bank, and, with the onset of the occupation, the area could no longer produce export earnings.
On the eve of occupation the West Bank accounted for 40% of Jordanian GNP, between 34% and 40% of its agricultural output and almost half of its manpower, though only a third of Jordanian investment was allocated to it and mainly to the private housing construction sector. Though its per-capita product was 10 times greater than that of the West Bank, the Israeli economy on the eve of occupation had experienced two years (1966-1967) of a sharp recession. Immediately after the occupation, from 1967 to 1974, the economy boomed. In 1967 the Palestinian economy had a gross domestic product of $1,349 per capita for a million people, with the West Bank population at 585,500,[a] of whom 18% were refugees, and was growing annually by 2%. West Bank growth, compared to Gaza (3%), had lagged, due to the effect of mass emigration of West Bankers seeking employment in Jordan. As agriculture gave way to industrial development in Israel, in the West Bank the former still generated 37% of domestic product, and industry a mere 13%.
The growth rate of the West Bank economy in the period of the Jordanian Occupation of the West Bank before Israeli occupation had ticked along at an annual rate of 6-8%. This rate of growth was indispensable if the post-war West Bank were to achieve economic self-reliance. 80% of Jordan's fruit-growing land and 40% of its vegetables lay in the West Bank, and, with the onset of the occupation, the area could no longer produce export earnings.
In June 1967, the West Bank and East Jerusalem were captured by Israel as a result of the Six-Day War. With the exception of East Jerusalem and the former Israeli-Jordanian no man's land, the West Bank was not annexed by Israel; it remained under Israeli military control until 1982.
Although the 1974 Arab League summit resolution at Rabat designated the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people", Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to the area until 1988, when it severed all administrative and legal ties with the West Bank and eventually stripped West Bank Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship.
In 1982, as a result of the Israeli–Egyptian peace treaty, the direct military rule was transformed into a semi-civil authority, operating directly under the Israeli Ministry of Defense, thus taking control of civil matters of Palestinians from the IDF to civil servants in the Ministry of Defense. The Israeli settlements were, on the other hand, administered subsequently as Judea and Samaria Area directly by Israel.
Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority officially controls a geographically non-contiguous territory comprising approximately 11% of the West Bank (known as Area A) which remains subject to Israeli incursions. Area B (approximately 28%) is subject to joint Israeli-Palestinian military and Palestinian civil control. Area C (approximately 61%) is under full Israeli control. Though 164 nations refer to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as "Occupied Palestinian Territory", the state of Israel quotes the UN that only territories captured in war from "an established and recognized sovereign" are considered occupied territories.
The Jordanians neglected to invest much in the area during their time governing the area, although there was some investment in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem.
Soon after the 1967 war, Yigal Allon produced the Allon Plan, which would have annexed a strip along the Jordan River valley and excluded areas closer to the pre-1967 border, which had a high density of Palestinians. Moshe Dayan proposed a plan which Gershom Gorenberg likens to a "photo negative of Allon's."[b] The Allon plan evolved over a period of time to include more territory. The final draft dating from 1970 would have annexed about half of the West Bank. Israel had no overall approach for integrating the West Bank:[c]
The early occupation set severe limits on public investment and comprehensive development programmes in the territories. British and Arab commercial banks operating in the West Bank were closed down soon after Israel assumed power there. Bank Leumi then opened nine branches, without successfully replacing the earlier system. Farmers could get loans, but Palestinian businessmen avoided taking out loans from them since they charged 9% compared to 5% interest in Jordan. By June 1967, only a third of West Bank land had been registered under Jordan's Settlement of Disputes over Land and Water Law and in 1968 Israel moved to cancel the possibility of registering one's title with the Jordanian Land Register. Ian Lustick states that Israel "virtually prevented" Palestinian investment in local industry and agriculture. At the same time, Israel encouraged Arab labour to enter into Israel's economy, and regarded them as a new, expanded and protected market for Israeli exports. Limited export of Palestinian goods to Israel was allowed. Expropriation of prime agricultural land in an economy where two thirds of the workforce had farmed is believed to account for the flight of labourers to work in Israel. As much as 40% of the workforce commuted to Israel on a daily basis finding only poorly paid menial employment. Remittances from labourers earning a wage in Israel were the major factor in Palestinian economic growth during the 1969–73 boom years, but the migration of workers from the territories had a negative impact on local industry by creating an internal labour scarcity in the West Bank and consequent pressure for higher wages there; the contrast between the quality of their lives and Israelis' growing prosperity stoked resentment.
Attempting to impose governmental authority, Israel established a licensing system according to which no industrial plant could be built without obtaining a prior Israeli permit. With Military Order No. 393 (14 June 1970), the local commander was given the power and authority to block any construction if, in his evaluation, the building might pose a danger to Israel's security. The overall effect was to obstruct manufacturing development and subordinate any local industrial activity to the exigencies of Israel's economy, or to block the creation of industries that might compete with Israel's. For example, entrepreneurs were denied a permit for a cement factory in Hebron. In order to protect Israeli farmers, melon production was forbidden, imports of grapes and dates were banned, and limits were set to how many cucumbers and tomatoes could be produced. Israeli milk producers exerted pressure on the Ministry for Industry and Trade to stop the establishment of a competitive dairy in Ramallah.
The sum effect after two decades was that 15% of all Palestinian firms in the West Bank (and Gaza) employing over eight people, and 32% with seven or less, were prohibited from selling their products in Israel. Israeli protectionist policies thus distorted wider trade relations to the point that, by 1996, 90% of all West Bank imports came from Israel, with consumers paying more than they would for comparable products had they been able to exercise commercial autonomy.
From 1517 to 1917 the West Bank was part of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, successor state to the Ottoman Empire, renounced its territorial claims in 1923, signing the Treaty of Lausanne, and the area now called the West Bank became an integral part of the British Mandate for Palestine. During the Mandate period Britain had no right of sovereignty, which was held by the people under the mandate. Nevertheless, Britain, as custodians of the land, implemented the land tenure laws in Palestine, which it had inherited from the Ottoman Turks (as defined in the Ottoman Land Code of 1858), applying these laws to both Arab and Jewish legal tenants or otherwise. In 1947 the UN General Assembly recommended that the area that became the West Bank become part of a future Arab state, but this proposal was opposed by the Arab states at the time. In 1948, .
In 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the Six-Day War. UN Security Council Resolution 242 followed, calling for withdrawal (return to the 1949 armistice lines) from territories occupied in the conflict in exchange for peace and mutual recognition. Since 1979, the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the United States, the EU, the International Court of Justice, and the International Committee of the Red Cross refer to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as occupied Palestinian territory or the occupied territories. General Assembly resolution 58/292 (17 May 2004) affirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to sovereignty over the area.
The International Court of Justice and the Supreme Court of Israel have ruled that the status of the West Bank is that of military occupation. In its 2004 advisory opinion the International Court of Justice concluded that:
The territories situated between the Green Line and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. Under customary international law, the Court observes, these were therefore occupied territories in which Israel had the status of occupying Power. Subsequent events in these territories have done nothing to alter this situation. The Court concludes that all these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and that Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.
In the same vein the Israeli Supreme Court stated in the 2004 Beit Sourik case that:
The general point of departure of all parties – which is also our point of departure – is that Israel holds the area in belligerent occupation (occupatio bellica)......The authority of the military commander flows from the provisions of public international law regarding belligerent occupation. These rules are established principally in the Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land, The Hague, 18 October 1907 [hereinafter – the Hague Regulations]. These regulations reflect customary international law. The military commander’s authority is also anchored in IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949.
The executive branch of the Israeli government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has defined the West Bank as “disputed” instead of “occupied” territory, whose status can only be determined through negotiations. The Ministry says that occupied territories are territories captured in war from an established and recognized sovereign, and that since the West Bank wasn't under the legitimate and recognized sovereignty of any state prior to the Six-Day War, it shouldn't be considered an occupied territory.
The International Court of Justice ruling of 9 July 2004, however, found that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is territory held by Israel under military occupation, regardless of its status prior to it coming under Israeli occupation, and that the Fourth Geneva convention applies de jure. The international community regards the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as territories occupied by Israel.
International law (Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) prohibits "transfers of the population of an occupying power to occupied territories", incurring a responsibility on the part of Israel's government to not settle Israeli citizens in the West Bank.
As of February 2020, 134 (69.4%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognised the State of Palestine within the Palestinian territories, which are recognized by Israel to constitute a single territorial unit, and of which the West Bank is the core of the would-be state.
The future status of the West Bank, together with the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean shore, has been the subject of negotiation between the Palestinians and Israelis, although the 2002 Road Map for Peace, proposed by the "Quartet" comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, envisions an independent Palestinian state in these territories living side by side with Israel (see also proposals for a Palestinian state). However, the "Road Map" states that in the first phase, Palestinians must end all attacks on Israel, whereas Israel must dismantle all outposts.
The Palestinian Authority believes that the West Bank ought to be a part of their sovereign nation, and that the presence of Israeli military control is a violation of their right to Palestinian Authority rule. The United Nations calls the West Bank and Gaza Strip Israeli-occupied territories. The United States State Department also refers to the territories as occupied.
In 2005 the United States ambassador to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, expressed U.S. support "for the retention by Israel of major Israeli population centres [in the West Bank] as an outcome of negotiations", reflecting President Bush's statement a year earlier that a permanent peace treaty would have to reflect "demographic realities" on the West Bank. In May 2011 US President Barack Obama officially stated US support for a future Palestinian state based on borders prior to the 1967 War, allowing for land swaps where they are mutually agreeable between the two sides. Obama was the first US president to formally support the policy, but he stated that it had been one long held by the US in its Middle East negotiations.
In December 2016, a resolution was adopted by United Nations Security Council that condemned Israel's settlement activity which constitutes a "flagrant violation" of international law and has "no legal validity". It demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. the United States was absent from vote and denounced the settlement activity in West Bank has gotten "so much worse" as to endanger the progress of the peaceful two-state solution.
Palestinian public opinion opposes Israeli military and settler presence on the West Bank as a violation of their right to statehood and sovereignty. Israeli opinion is split into a number of views:
The West Bank has an area of 5,628 square kilometres (2,173 sq mi), which comprises 21.2% of former Mandatory Palestine (excluding Jordan) and has generally rugged mountainous terrain. The total length of the land boundaries of the region are 404 kilometres (251 miles). The terrain is mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in the west, but somewhat barren in the east. The elevation span between the shoreline of the Dead Sea at −408 m to the highest point at Mount Nabi Yunis, at 1,030 m (3,379 ft) above sea level. The area of West Bank is landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel's coastal aquifers.
There are few natural resources in the area except the highly arable land, which comprises 27% of the land area of the region. It is mostly used as permanent pastures (32% of arable land) and seasonal agricultural uses (40%). Forests and woodland comprise just 1%, with no permanent crops.
The climate in the West Bank is mostly Mediterranean, slightly cooler at elevated areas compared with the shoreline, west to the area. In the east, the West Bank includes the Judean Desert and the shoreline of the Dead Sea – both with dry and hot climate.
The 1993 Oslo Accords declared the final status of the West Bank to be subject to a forthcoming settlement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Following these interim accords, Israel withdrew its military rule from some parts of the West Bank, which was divided into three administrative divisions of the Oslo Accords:
Area A, 2.7%,[of what?] full civil control of the Palestinian Authority, comprises Palestinian towns, and some rural areas away from Israeli settlements in the north (between Jenin, Nablus, Tubas, and Tulkarm), the south (around Hebron), and one in the center south of Salfit. Area B, 25.2%,[of what?] adds other populated rural areas, many closer to the center of the West Bank. Area C contains all the Israeli settlements (excluding settlements in East Jerusalem), roads used to access the settlements, buffer zones (near settlements, roads, strategic areas, and Israel), and almost all of the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert.
Areas A and B are themselves divided among 227 separate areas (199 of which are smaller than 2 square kilometers (1 sq mi)) that are separated from one another by Israeli-controlled Area C.  Areas A, B, and C cross the 11 governorates used as administrative divisions by the Palestinian National Authority, Israel, and the IDF and named after major cities. The mainly open areas of Area C, which contains all of the basic resources of arable and building land, water springs, quarries and sites of touristic value needed to develop a viable Palestinian state, were to be handed over to the Palestinians by 1999 under the Oslo Accords as part of a final status agreement. This agreement was never achieved.
According to B'tselem, while the vast majority of the Palestinian population lives in areas A and B, the vacant land available for construction in dozens of villages and towns across the West Bank is situated on the margins of the communities and defined as area C. Less than 1% of area C is designated for use by Palestinians, who are also unable to legally build in their own existing villages in area C due to Israeli authorities' restrictions,
An assessment by the UN in 2007 found that approximately 40% of the West Bank was taken up by Israeli infrastructure. The infrastructure, consisting of settlements, the barrier, military bases and closed military areas, Israeli declared nature reserves and the roads that accompany them is off-limits or tightly controlled to Palestinians.
In June 2011, the Independent Commission for Human Rights published a report that found that Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an "almost systematic campaign" of human rights abuse by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities, with the security forces of the PA and Hamas being responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.
Through the Jerusalem Law, Israel extended its administrative control over East Jerusalem. This has often been interpreted as tantamount to an official annexation, though Ian Lustick, in reviewing the legal status of Israeli measures, has argued that no such annexation ever took place. The Palestinian residents have legal permanent residency status. Rejecting the Jerusalem Law, the UN Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 478, declaring that the law was "null and void". Although permanent residents are permitted, if they wish, to receive Israeli citizenship if they meet certain conditions including swearing allegiance to the State and renouncing any other citizenship, most Palestinians did not apply for Israeli citizenship for political reasons. There are various possible reasons as to why the West Bank had not been annexed to Israel after its capture in 1967. The government of Israel has not formally confirmed an official reason; however, historians and analysts have established a variety of such, most of them demographic. Among those most commonly cited have been:
The importance of demographic concerns to some significant figures in Israel's leadership was illustrated when Avraham Burg, a former Knesset Speaker and former chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, wrote in The Guardian in September 2003,
As of 2017, more than 620,000 Israelis live in over 200 settlements in the West Bank. Of those, 209,270 live in settlements in East Jerusalem and 413,400 live in other parts of the West Bank. 131 of those settlements are officially recognized by the Israeli government. A further 110 settlements are not officially recognized and are illegal under Israeli law, but have nevertheless been provided with infrastructure, water, sewage, and other services by the authorities. They are colloquially known as "illegal outputs."
The international consensus is that all Israeli settlements on the West Bank beyond the Green Line are illegal under international law. In particular, the European Union as a whole considers the settlements to be illegal. Significant portions of the Israeli public similarly oppose the continuing presence of Jewish Israelis in the West Bank and have supported the 2005 settlement relocation. The majority of legal scholars also hold the settlements to violate international law, however individuals including Julius Stone, and Eugene Rostow have argued that they are legal under international law. Immediately after the 1967 war Theodor Meron, legal counsel of Israel's Foreign Ministry advised Israeli ministers in a "top secret" memo that any policy of building settlements across occupied territories violated international law and would "contravene the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention".
The UN Security Council has issued several non-binding resolutions addressing the issue of the settlements. Typical of these is UN Security Council resolution 446 which states , and it calls on Israel [the] practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validityas the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention held in Geneva on 5 December 2001 called upon "the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to refrain from perpetrating any violation of the Convention." The High Contracting Parties reaffirmed "the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof."
On 30 December 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued an order requiring approval by both the Israeli Prime Minister and Israeli Defense Minister of all settlement activities (including planning) in the West Bank. The change had little effect with settlements continuing to expand, and new ones being established. On 31 August 2014, Israel announced it was appropriating 400 hectares of land in the West Bank to eventually house 1,000 Israel families. The appropriation was described as the largest in more than 30 years. According to reports on Israel Radio, the development is a response to the 2014 kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers.
The Haaretz published an article in December 2005 about demolition of "Palestinian outposts" in Bil'in, the demolitions sparked a political debate as according to PeaceNow it was a double standard ("After what happened today in Bil'in, there is no reason that the state should defend its decision to continue the construction" credited to Michael Sfard).
In January 2012, the European Union approved the "Area C and Palestinian state building" report. The report said Palestinian presence in Area C has been continuously undermined by Israel and that state building efforts in Area C of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the EU were of "utmost importance in order to support the creation of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state". The EU will support various projects to "support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence".
In May 2012, a petition was filed to the Israeli Supreme Court about the legality of more 15 Palestinian outposts and Palestinian building in "Area C". The cases were filed by Regavim.
The petition was one of 30 different petitions with the common ground of illegal land takeover and illegal construction and use of natural resources. Some of the petitions (27) had been set for trials and the majority received a verdict.
Ynet News stated on 18 January 2013 that Palestinian activists built an outpost on a disputed area in Beit Iksa, where Israel plans to construct part of the separation fence in the Jerusalem vicinity while the Palestinians claim that the area belongs to the residents of Beit Iksa. named Bab al-Krama
The Israeli West Bank barrier is a physical barrier ordered for construction by the Israeli Government, consisting of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 meters (197 ft) wide exclusion area (90%) and up to 8 meters (26 ft) high concrete walls (10%) (although in most areas the wall is not nearly that high). It is located mainly within the West Bank, partly along the 1949 Armistice line, or "Green Line" between the West Bank and Israel. As of April 2006 the length of the barrier as approved by the Israeli government is 703 kilometers (437 mi) long.[needs update] Approximately 58.4% has been constructed, 8.96% is under construction, and construction has not yet begun on 33% of the barrier. The space between the barrier and the green line is a closed military zone known as the Seam Zone, cutting off 8.5% of the West Bank and encompassing dozens of villages and tens of thousands of Palestinians.
The barrier generally runs along or near the 1949 Jordanian-Israeli armistice/Green Line, but diverges in many places to include on the Israeli side several of the highly populated areas of Jewish settlements in the West Bank such as East Jerusalem, Ariel, Gush Etzion, Immanuel, Karnei Shomron, Givat Ze'ev, Oranit, and Maale Adumim.
Supporters of the barrier claim it is necessary for protecting Israeli civilians from Palestinian attacks, which increased significantly during the Al-Aqsa Intifada; it has helped reduce incidents of terrorism by 90% from 2002 to 2005; over a 96% reduction in terror attacks in the six years ending in 2007, though Israel's State Comptroller has acknowledged that most of the suicide bombers crossed into Israel through existing checkpoints. Its supporters claim that the onus is now on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism.
Opponents claim the barrier is an illegal attempt to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security, violates international law, has the intent or effect to pre-empt final status negotiations, and severely restricts Palestinian livelihoods, particularly limiting their freedom of movement within and from the West Bank thereby undermining their economy.
After the signing of the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into 11 governorates under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority. Since 2007 there are two governments claiming to be the legitimate government of the Palestinian National Authority, one based in the West Bank and one based in the Gaza Strip.
The West Bank is further divided into 8 administrative regions: Menashe (Jenin area), HaBik'a (Jordan Valley), Shomron (Shechem area, known in Arabic as Nablus), Efrayim (Tulkarm area), Binyamin (Ramallah/al-Bireh area), Maccabim (Maccabim area), Etzion (Bethlehem area) and Yehuda (Hebron area).
Allenby Bridge, or ‘King Hussein Bridge’, is the main port for the Palestinian in the West Bank to the Jordanian borders. This crossing point is controlled by Israel since 1967. It was inaugurated on 11 December 2011 under the military order "175" entitled ‘An order concerning transition station’. Later, Order ‘446’ was issued which annexed the Damia Bridge crossing point to the Allenby Bridge as a commercial crossing point only. Goods were exported to Jordan, while the import was banned for security purposes.
In 1993, the Palestinian National Authority, according to Oslo Accord assigned by PLO and the Israeli government, became a partial supervisor over the Rafah Border Crossing to Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority was responsible for issuing passports to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, Israel remained the major responsible party for this crossing point. According to the agreement, Israel has the right to independently inspect luggage and to maintain security. In addition, it can prevent anyone from using the crossing.
As of the early-21st century, the economy of the Palestinian territories is chronically depressed, with unemployment rates constantly over 20% since 2000 (19% in the West Bank in first half of 2013).
According to a 2013 World Bank report, Israeli restrictions hinder Palestinian economic development in Area C of the West Bank. A 2013 World Bank report calculates that, if the Interim Agreement was respected and restrictions lifted, a few key industries alone would produce US$2.2 billion per annum more (or 23% of 2011 Palestinian GDP) and reduce by some US$800 million (50%) the Palestinian Authority's deficit; the employment would increase by 35%.
Amnesty International has criticized the way that the Israeli state is dealing with the regional water resources:
Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) do not have access to adequate, safe water supplies...Discriminatory Israeli policies in the OPT are the root cause of the striking disparity in access to water between Palestinians and Israelis...The inequality is even more pronounced between Palestinian communities and unlawful Israeli settlements, established in the OPT in violation of international law. Swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms in Israeli settlements in the OPT stand in stark contrast next to Palestinian villages whose inhabitants struggle even to meet their essential domestic water needs. In parts of the West Bank, Israeli settlers use up to 20 times more water per capita than neighbouring Palestinian communities, who survive on barely 20 litres of water per capita a day– the minimum amount recommended by the WHO for emergency situations response.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank have seized dozens of wells from Palestinians. The wells are privately owned by Palestinians and the settlers forcible took them, gave them Hebrew names and, with the assistance of the Israeli military, prevent Arab people, including the wells' owners, from using the wells and the pools the wells feed.
Israel ratified the international Basel Convention treaty on Israel on 14 December 1994, according to which, any transfer of waste must be performed with an awareness of the dangers posed to the disempowered occupied people. It forbids the creation among them of "environmental sacrifice zones." Israel, it is argued, uses the West Bank as a "sacrifice" zone for placing 15 waste treatment plants, which are there under less stringent rules that those required in Israel because a different legal system has been organized regarding hazardous materials that can be noxious to local people and the environment. The military authorities do not render public the details of these operations. These materials consist of such things as sewage sludge, infectious medical waste, used oils, solvents, metals, electronic waste and batteries.
In 2007 it was estimated that 38% (35 mcm a year) of all wastewater flowing into the West Bank derived from settlements and Jerusalem. Of the 121 settlements surveyed, 81 had wastewater treatrment plant, much of it inadequate or subject to breakdown, with much sewage flowing into lowland streams and terrain where Palestinian villages are located. Only 4 of 53 indictments for waste pollution were made over the years from 2000 to 2008, whereas in Israel the laws are strictly applied and, in 2006 alone, 230 enforcements for the same abuse were enforced. At the same time 90–95% of Palestinian wastewater was not treated, with only 1 of 4 Israeli plants built in the 1970s to that purpose functioning, and the neglect to improve the infrastructure is attributed to Israeli budgetary problems. After the Oslo Accords, the global community earmarked $250,000,000 for West Bank wastewater infrastructure. Israel at times insisted its approval was conditional on linking the grid to Israeli settlements, which neither the donors nor Palestinians accepted. Most the infrastructure was subsequently destroyed by IDF military operations. The PA did raise funds from Germany for 15 plants, but only managed to build one, at al-Bireh, within Area B, though even there Israel insisted the plant process waste from the settlement of Psagot, though refusing to pay fees for the treatment. Palestinian towns like Salfit have been deeply affected by sewage overflow channeled past the town from the settlement of Ariel.
Unlike the data available for sewage treatment within Israel, the Israeli Water Commission refuses to provide public reports on 15 million cubic metres of sewage flowing from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It claims 75% is treated adequately but independent Israeli studies (2000) suggest that only 6% met Israeli treatment standards, while 48% was either not treated adequastely or discharged raw. Since then some improvements have been implemented.
The landfill near Al-Jiftlik in the Jericho Governorate, built on absentee Palestinian property without planning or an environment impact analysis, is for the exclusive use of waste, 1,000 tons per day, produced by Israeli settlements and cities within Israel. Palestinians are restricted to 3 landfills, and permits for more have been denied unless the sites can be used to dump settlement garbage. Even if a permit is given without this agreement, settler waste under military escort is still dumped there.
Israel has been accused of engaging in ‘warfare ecology’ in the West Bank. In response to local opposition in Israel to waste treatment plants and the high cost of meeting stringent environment laws in that country. It has been argued that Israel had used the area of the West Bank as a ‘sacrifice zone’ where its waste can be dumped.." [d]
Many waste treatment facilities in the West Bank were built for processing waste generated inside Israeli sovereign territory, according to B'Tselem, Israel's leading human rights organization for monitoring the West Bank.  At least 15 waste treatment plants operate in the West Bank and most of the waste they process is brought over from within the Green line inside Israel proper. Of these 15 facilities, six process hazardous waste, including infectious medical waste, used oils and solvents, metals, batteries and electronic industry byproducts, and one facility that processes sewage sludge. The Israel government requires no reporting by these West Bank facilities of the amount of waste they process or the risks they pose to the local population, and applies less rigorous regulatory standards to these facilities than it does to solid waste treatment facilities in Israel. B'Tselem, Israel's leading independent human rights organization for monitoring human rights in the West Bank, has observed that "any transfer of waste to the West Bank is a breach of international law which Israel is dutybound to uphold" because according to international law "an occupied territory or its resources may not be used for the benefit of the occupying power’s own needs."   Experts have also warned that some of these facilities are garbage dumps that endanger the purity of the mountain aquifer, which is one of the largest sources of water in the region.
In 1995, the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) was established by a presidential decree. One year later, its functions, objectives and responsibilities were defined through a by-law, giving the PWA the mandate to manage water resources and execute the water policy.
About 90% of the Palestinians in the Territories had access to improved sanitation in 2008. Cesspits were used by 39% of households, while access to the sewer network increased to 55% in 2011, up from 39% in 1999. In the West Bank, only 13,000 out of 85,000 m³ of wastewater were treated in five municipal wastewater treatment plants in Hebron, Jenin, Ramallah, Tulkarem and Al-Bireh. The Al Bireh plant was constructed in 2000 with funding by the German aid agency KfW. According to the World Bank report, the other four plants perform poorly concerning efficiency and quality.
Based on the number of quarries per km2 in Areas A and B, it is calculated that, were Israel to lift restrictions, a further 275 quarries could be opened in Area C. The World Bank estimates that Israel's virtual ban on issuing Palestinians permits for quarries there costs the Palestinian economy at least US$241 million per year. In International law drawing on the Hague Conventions (Article 55), it is established that an occupying power may reap some value from the resources of the country occupied but not deplete its assets, and that the usufruct must benefit the people under occupation. The Oslo Accords agreed to hand over mining rights to the Palestinian Authority. Israel licenses eleven settlement quarries in the West Bank and they sell 94% of their material to Israel, which arguably constitutes "depletion" and pays royalties to its West Bank military government and settlement municipalities. Thus the German cement firm quarrying at Nahal Raba paid out €430,000 ($479,000) in taxes to the Samaria Regional Council in 2014 alone. The Israeli High Court rejected a petition that such quarrying was a violation by stating that after 4 decades Israeli law must adapt to "the realities on the ground". The state did undertake not to open more quarries. As an illustrative example, a Human Rights Watch report contrasts the difference between a Palestinian-owned quarry company in Beit Fajar and that of a European one working on what Israeli considers its state land. The European company obtained a concession and license to harvest stone, whereas Israel refuses permits for most of the roughly 40 Beit Fajar quarries, or nearly any other Palestinian-owned quarry in the West Bank under Israeli administration.
Israel had denied Palestinians permits to process minerals in that area of the West Bank. The products of the Israeli cosmetics firm Ahava, established in 1988, were developed in laboratories at the West Bank Dead Sea settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalya. 60% of their production is sold in the EU market. In 2018 The UN, stating that the violations were both "pervasive and devastating" to the local Palestinian population, identified some 206 companies which do business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Roughly 73 percent of global bromine production comes from Israeli and Jordanian exploitation of the Dead Sea. The potential incremental value that could accrue to the Palestinian economy from the production and sales of potash, bromine and magnesium has been conservatively estimated at US$918 million per annum, or 9 percent of GDP. The lost earnings from not being allowed to process Dead Sea minerals such as potash, and for making bromide-based flame retardants, based on calculations of comparable use by Israel and Jordan, suggest a figure of $642 million.
Albert Glock argued that Israel is responsible for the disappearance of significant parts of the Palestinian cultural patrimony, by confiscating Arab cultural resources. In 1967 it appropriated the Palestine Archaeological Museum[e] and its library in East Jerusalem.[f] Often these losses are personal, as when homes are ransacked and looted of their valuables. The journalist Hamdi Faraj, jailed for endangering public order, had his 500-volume library confiscated, including copies of the Bible and Qur'an and, when he applied for their restitution, was told all the books had been accidentally burnt. The Israeli occupation has wrought a profound change in Palestinian identity, which clings to a sense of a "paradise lost" before the changes brought out by the 1967 conquest.[g]
The Palestinian territories contain several of the most significant sites for Muslims, Christians and Jews, and are endowed with a world-class heritage highly attractive to tourists and pilgrims. The West Bank Palestinians themselves have difficulties in accessing the territory for recreation.
Based on 1967 figures, the Palestinian Dead Sea Coastline is roughly 40 km in length, of which 15% (6 kilometres) could lend itself to the same tourist infrastructure developed by Jordan and Israel in their respective areas. Were Israel to permit a parallel development of this Palestinian sector, the World Bank estimates that 2,900 jobs would be added, allowing the Palestinian economy a potential value-added input of something like $126 million annually. It is also the only maritime recreational outlet for West Bankers, but according to an Acri complaint to the Israeli Supreme Court in 2008 Palestinians are often barred or turned away from the beaches at their only access point, the Beit Ha'arava checkpoint on Route 90. Acri claimed the ban responds to fears by settlers who operate tourist concessions in this West Bank area that they will lose Jewish customers if there are too many West Bank Palestinians on the beaches.[h] The key Palestinian towns in the West Bank for tourism are East Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho. All access points are controlled by Israel and the road system, checkpoints and obstacles in place for visitors desiring to visit Palestinian towns leaves their hotels half-empty. From 92 to 94 cents in every dollar of the tourist trade goes to Israel. The general itineraries under Israeli management focus predominantly on Jewish history. Obstacles placed in the way of Palestinian-managed tourism down to 1995 included withholding licenses from tour guides, and hotels, for construction or renovation, and control of airports and highways, enabling Israel to develop a virtual monopoly on tourism.
In December 2007, an official census conducted by the Palestinian Authority found that the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) was 2,345,000. However, the World Bank and American-Israeli Demographic Research Group identified a 32% discrepancy between first-grade enrollment statistics documented by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)’ 2007 projections, with questions also raised about the PCBS’ growth assumptions for the period 1997–2003. The Israeli Civil Administration put the number of Palestinians in the West Bank at 2,657,029 as of May 2012.
There are 389,250 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem, as well as around 375,000 living in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. There are also small ethnic groups, such as the Samaritans living in and around Nablus, numbering in the hundreds.
As of October 2007, around 23,000 Palestinians in the West Bank worked in Israel every day, while another 9,200 worked in Israeli settlements. In addition, around 10,000 Palestinian traders from the West Bank were allowed to travel every day into Israel. By 2014, 92,000 Palestinians worked in Israel legally or illegally, twice as many as in 2010.
In 2008, approximately 30% of Palestinians or 754,263 persons living in the West Bank were refugees or descendants of refugees from villages and towns located in what became Israel during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, according to UNRWA statistics. A 2011 EU report titled "Area C and Palestinian State Building" reported that before the Israeli occupation in 1967, between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians used to live in the Jordan Valley, 90% which is in Area C, but demolition of Palestinian homes and prevention of new buildings has seen the number drop to 56,000, 70% of which live in Area A, in Jericho. In a similar period, the Jewish population in Area C has grown from 1,200 to 310,000.
The most densely populated part of the region is a mountainous spine, running north–south, where the cities of Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Jenin, Bethlehem, Hebron and Yattah are located as well as the Israeli settlements of Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Beitar Illit. Ramallah, although relatively mid in population compared to other major cities as Hebron, Nablus and Jenin, serves as an economic and political center for the Palestinians. Near Ramallah the new city of Rawabi is under construction. Jenin in the extreme north and is the capital of north of the West Bank and is on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley. Modi'in Illit, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm are in the low foothills adjacent to the Israeli Coastal Plain, and Jericho and Tubas are situated in the Jordan Valley, north of the Dead Sea.
The population of the West Bank is 80–85% Muslim (mostly Sunni) and 12–14% Jewish. The remainder are Christian (mostly Greek Orthodox) and others.
In 2010, the West Bank and Gaza Strip together had 4,686 km (2,912 mi) of roadways.
It has been said that for "Jewish settlers, roads connect; for Palestinians, they separate." Between 1994 and 1997, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) built 180 miles of bypass roads in the territories, on appropriated land because they ran close to Palestinian villages. The given aim was said to be to afford protection to settlers from Palestinian sniping, bombing, and drive-by shootings. For TAU emeritus professor of geography Elisha Efrat, they ignored the historical topography, road systems and environmental characteristics of the West Bank, and simply formed an apartheid network of "octopus arms which hold a grip on Palestinian population centres".[i]
A large number of embankments, concrete slabs and barriers impeded movement on primary and secondary roads. The result was to cantonize and fragment Palestinian townships, and cause endless obstacles to Palestinians going to work, schools, markets and relatives.[j] Ramallah was cut off from all of its feeder villages in 2000.
Though prohibited by law, confiscation of Palestinian identity cards at checkpoints is a daily occurrence. At best drivers must wait for several hours for them to be returned, when, as can happen, the IDs themselves are lost as soldiers change shifts, in which case Palestinians are directed to some regional office the next day, and more checkpoints to get there. Even before the Al Aqsa Intifada, UNFPA estimated that 20% of pregnant West Bank women were unable to access prenatal care because of the difficulties and delays caused by crossing checkpoints, and dozens were forced to deliver their children on the roadside. Constant uncertainty and the inability to plan are the results for Palestinians of the Israeli military rules governing their movements. The World Bank noted that additional costs arising from longer travelling caused by restrictions on movement through three major routes in the West Bank alone ran to (2013) USD 185 million a year, adding that other, earlier calculations (2007) suggest restrictions on the Palestinian labour market cost the West Bank approximately US$229 million per annum. It concluded that such imposed restrictions had a major negative impact on the local economy, hindering stability and growth. In 2007, official Israeli statistics indicated that there were 180,000 Palestinians on Israel's secret travel ban list. 561 roadblocks and checkpoints were in place (October), the number of Palestinians licensed to drive private cars was 46,166 and the annual cost of permits was $454. These checkpoints, together with the separation wall and the restricted networks restructure the West Bank into "land cells", freezing the flow of normal everyday Palestinian lives. Israel sets up flying checkpoints without notice. Some 2,941 flying checkpoints were rigged up along West Bank roads, averaging some 327 a month, in 2017. A further 476 unstaffed physical obstacles, such as dirt mounds, concrete blocks, gates and fenced sections had been placed on roads for Palestinian use. Of the gates erected at village entrances, 59 were always closed. The checkpoint system did not ease up after the Oslo Accords, but was strengthened after them, which has been interpreted as suggesting their function is to assert control over Palestinians, and as a sign of an unwillingness to yield ground in the West Bank. According to PA Health Ministry statistics relating to the period from 2000 to 2006, of 68 Palestinian women who gave birth to their children while held up at checkpoints, 35 miscarried and 5 died while delivering their child there. Machsom Watch accumulated over a mere five years (2001–2006) some 10,000 eyewitness reports and testimonies regarding the innumerable difficulties faced by Palestinians trying to negotiate West Bank checkpoints.
Transportation infrastructure is particularly problematic as Palestinian use of roads in Area C is highly restricted, and travel times can be inordinate; the Palestinian Authority has also been unable to develop roads, airports or railways in or through Area C, while many other roads were restricted only to public transportation and to Palestinians who have special permits from Israeli authorities.
At certain times, Israel maintained more than 600 checkpoints or roadblocks in the region. As such, movement restrictions were also placed on main roads traditionally used by Palestinians to travel between cities, and such restrictions are still blamed for poverty and economic depression in the West Bank. Underpasses and bridges (28 of which have been constructed and 16 of which are planned) link Palestinian areas separated from each other by Israeli settlements and bypass roads"
There is a road, Route 4370, which has a concrete wall dividing the two sides, one designated for Israeli vehicles, the other for Palestinian. The wall is designed to allow Palestinians to pass north–south through Israeli-held land and facilitate the building of additional Jewish settlements in the Jerusalem neighborhood.
As of February 2012, a plan for 475-kilometer rail network, establishing 11 new rail lines in West Bank, was confirmed by Israeli Transportation Ministry. The West Bank network would include one line running through Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim, Bethlehem and Hebron. Another would provide service along the Jordanian border from Eilat to the Dead Sea, Jericho and Beit She'an and from there toward Haifa in the west and in also in a northeasterly direction. The proposed scheme also calls for shorter routes, such as between Nablus and Tul Karm in the West Bank, and from Ramallah to the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan.
The Palestinian Paltel telecommunication companies provide communication services such as landline, cellular network and Internet in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dialling code +970 is used in the West Bank and all over the Palestinian territories. Until 2007, the Palestinian mobile market was monopolized by Jawwal. A new mobile operator for the territories launched in 2009 under the name of Wataniya Telecom. The number of Internet users increased from 35,000 in 2000 to 356,000 in 2010.
The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from an AM station in Ramallah on 675 kHz; numerous local privately owned stations are also in operation. Most Palestinian households have a radio and TV, and satellite dishes for receiving international coverage are widespread. Recently, PalTel announced and has begun implementing an initiative to provide ADSL broadband internet service to all households and businesses. Israel's cable television company HOT, satellite television provider (DBS) Yes, AM and FM radio broadcast stations and public television broadcast stations all operate. Broadband internet service by Bezeq's ADSL and by the cable company is available as well. The Al-Aqsa Voice broadcasts from Dabas Mall in Tulkarem at 106.7 FM. The Al-Aqsa TV station shares these offices.
Most universities in the West Bank have politically active student bodies, and elections of student council officers are normally along party affiliations. Although the establishment of the universities was initially allowed by the Israeli authorities, some were sporadically ordered closed by the Israeli Civil Administration during the 1970s and 1980s to prevent political activities and violence against the IDF. Some universities remained closed by military order for extended periods during years immediately preceding and following the first Palestinian Intifada, but have largely remained open since the signing of the Oslo Accords despite the advent of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Second Intifada) in 2000.
The founding of Palestinian universities has greatly increased education levels among the population in the West Bank. According to a Birzeit University study, the percentage of Palestinians choosing local universities as opposed to foreign institutions has been steadily increasing; as of 1997, 41% of Palestinians with bachelor's degrees had obtained them from Palestinian institutions. According to UNESCO, Palestinians are one of the most highly educated groups in the Middle East "despite often difficult circumstances". The literacy rate among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is 94.6% for 2009.