West Bank, Palestine

West Bank, Cisjordan, English West Bank [west bæ ŋ k; “West Bank”], an area of around 5,655 km 2 west of the lower Jordan and the northern Dead Sea with (according to 2013 estimates) 2.775 million Palestinians and around 305,000 Israeli settlers.

About 75% of the West Bank’s population are Sunni Muslims; the Jewish population has grown to around 17% as a result of the planned Israeli settlement policy (around 1,000 Jews in 1972); over 5% of the population are Christians (mainly belonging to Orthodox churches). Around 300 Samaritans live in Nablus. Capital: Ram Allah (Ramallah), other cities: Al-Quds (East Jerusalem), Al-Khalil (Hebron), Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilyah, Janin (Jenin), Ariha (Jericho), Bayt Lahm (Bethlehem).

The entire West Bank within the 1967 borders is viewed by both the PLO and the international community, alongside the Gaza Strip, as the core area of the Palestinian state that is to be formed.

History: As a former part of the British Mandate Palestine (1920–48) in the 1947 UN partition plan assigned to the Palestinians (East Palestine: Judea and Samaria; Palestine, history), the area was annexed to Jordan in 1950 and has since been referred to as the West Bank. Occupied by Israel from 1967 onwards and settled partly out of strategic considerations, partly in order to create affordable housing for immigrants from the Soviet Union, the state and international legal position of the West Bank from then on formed one of the key issues in efforts to achieve a permanent settlement of the Middle East conflict.

After Jordan surrendered the territory of the West Bank in favor of the Palestinians (1974) and the symbolic handover of the country to the PLO (1988), the PLO proclaimed the internationally unrecognized state of Palestine on November 15, 1988. With the Israeli-Palestinian agreement on a gradual transition to Palestinian self-government by 1999 (Gaza-Jericho Agreement of September 13, 1993), the area was decoupled from Israel, which was controversial on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. It was made more concrete by the interim agreement of September 28, 1995 and the Wye Agreement signed in Washington (D.C.) on October 23, 1998 and in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) on September 5, 1999. The interim agreement provided for a division of the West Bank into three areas of different administration: Zone A was to include 6 Palestinian cities (Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqilyah, Ramallah and Bethlehem), parts of Hebron and 420 villages (3% of the total area); in zone B 450 villages and small towns should be placed under mixed control, i. In other words, the autonomous authority should only have purely civil administrative competence (27%); in zone C Jewish settlements and Israeli military bases as well as other strategically important areas from an Israeli perspective should be under full Israeli control (70%). Despite the partial withdrawal of the Israeli troops from large parts of the West Bank and some villages (from 1995 in several phases), the implementation of the treaties was slow. In the Hebron Agreement (1997), the urban area was divided into an H-1 zone, in which 100,000 Palestinians lived under autonomous rule, and an H-2 zone, in which 450 extremist Jewish settlers and 20,000 Palestinians lived under Israeli military rule, divided. In the agreement, Israel also secured the US’s promise to be able to select the territories to be ceded without consulting the Palestinians.

The Camp David peace negotiations. From September 2000, the bloodiest riots since 1993 (»second« or »Al-Aqsa intifada«) followed, from which a veritable asymmetrical guerrilla war developed: Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlements and settlers as well as suicide bombings in the Israeli heartland were followed by military countermeasures on the Israeli side, among others the temporary reoccupation of the cities of Zone A. Finally, Israel decided to make the Israeli border insurmountable for terrorists, and at the end of May 2002 began to surround the West Bank with a fence, as it had been around the Gaza Strip for a long time. This fence, which was initially only electronically secured, was subsequently replaced by an eight-meter-high concrete wall, a two-meter-deep trench, replaced a barbed wire and a road for security patrols and watchtowers 300 m apart. This border fortification only partially followed the border between Israel and the then Jordanian West Bank before the 1967 war (“green line”). In many places, Israeli settlements close to the border in the West Bank were added to the Israeli heartland or Palestinian places were cut off from their agricultural land in such a way that they could only be reached with great expenditure of time. On the basis of a request by the UN General Assembly in December 2003, the International Court of Justice was asked to prepare an opinion on the course of the fortification of the border around the West Bank. In its opinion of 5 July In 2004 the barriers were declared illegal and called on Israel to stop construction work immediately and to compensate the Palestinians affected (adopted in a resolution by the UN General Assembly on July 21, 2004). Israel rejected this but made some corrections to the course of the wall based on rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court in favor of the Palestinians.

In early June 2003, Israel began withdrawing the military from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, cleared some outposts of settlements, but declared the border fortifications it had built in the north of the West Bank to be non-negotiable. As a result of the lockdowns and destruction, some branches of the Palestinian economy suffered between 70 and 90 percent losses. Accordingly, the standard of living of the people in the West Bank also fell. The situation for the Palestinian population in the West Bank was made more difficult by constant controls by Israeli security forces – to counter terrorism – at crossroads to Jewish settlements. In connection with the goal, which has been pursued since the beginning of 2004 and is highly controversial within Israel,A. Sharon initially made it clear – in contradiction to the roadmap also accepted by Israel for the realization of a state of Palestine – that she wanted to expand the now remaining settlements. Repeatedly, first in the run-up to the elections on March 28, 2006, and again in his government declaration of May 4, 2006, after the formation of the government, Prime Minister E. Olmert proclaimed that from 2006 he will be the successor and political heir of Sharon to continue its “policy of separation” from the Palestinians in order to achieve a clear demarcation of the border with the West Bank, among others. through accelerated expansion of the border fortifications and evacuation of illegal settlements in the West Bank (e.g. in Hebron) – while maintaining the large settlement blocs as Israeli exclaves (so-called Olmert Plan).

After the bloody expulsion of Fatah from the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militias in May / June 2007, they temporarily withdrew to the West Bank. The forced construction of Israeli settlements remained prone to conflict. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths in the West Bank in June 2014 escalated the situation further. There was a large-scale operation by the Israeli army (raids, arrests). After various unsuccessful efforts, Hamas and Fatah set an example with a reconciliation agreement in October 2017 that they would overcome the territorial and political division of the Palestinians that has persisted since 2007.

With the preservation of binationality (Palestinians, Israeli settlers) and the definition of the borders, clarifying the status of the West Bank – in addition to the Jerusalem issue – continues to be of central importance for permanent settlements in the Middle East conflict.

West Bank, Palestine