West Bank: Wikis


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State of Palestine
West Bank Palestine
Palestinian Local Government
in the West Bank

The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية‎, aḍ-Ḍiffä l-Ġarbīyä, Hebrew: הגדה המערבית‎, HaGadah HaMa'aravit)[1] is a landlocked territory[2] and is the eastern part of the Palestinian territories; on the west bank of the River Jordan in the Middle East. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel, which maintains the security of what it calls the Judea and Samaria Area. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the country of Jordan. The West Bank also contains a significant coastline along the western bank of the Dead Sea. Since 1967, most of the West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation.

Prior to the First World War, the area now known as the West Bank was under Ottoman rule as part of the province of Syria. At the 1920 San Remo conference, the victorious Allied powers allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine which included modern day Jordan and Israel. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War saw the establishment of Israel in parts of the former Mandate, while the territory known as the "West Bank" area was captured by Trans-Jordan. Since it then controlled the territory on both sides of the Jordan river, Trans-Jordan renamed itself Jordan in 1949. The 1949 Armistice Agreements defined its interim boundary. From 1948 until 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule, and Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to the area until 1988. Jordan's claim was never formally recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom.[3] The West Bank was taken control of by Israel, during the Six-Day War in June, 1967. With the exception of East Jerusalem, the West Bank was not annexed by Israel. Most of the residents are Arabs, although a large number of Israeli settlements have been built in the region since 1967. Close to 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank settlements, illegal under international law (the Fourth Geneva Convention).[4]

The West Bank has a land area of 5,640 square kilometers (including East Jerusalem).[5]


Origin of the name

Arab homes in Silwan

West Bank

The region did not have a separate existence until 1948–1949, when it was defined by the Armistice Agreement of April 1949 between Israel and Jordan (until then known as Transjordan). The name "West Bank" was apparently first used by Jordanians[citation needed], and has become the most common name used in English and some of the other Germanic languages. The term was used in order to differentiate 'the West bank of the river Jordan', namely the newly annexed territory; from the "East Bank", namely the East bank of this same River Jordan (Transjordan), which today constitutes the present territory of the Kingdom of Jordan.


The neo-Latin name Cisjordan or Cis-Jordan (literally "on this side of the [River] Jordan") is the usual name in the Romance languages and Hungarian. The analogous Transjordan has historically been used to designate the region now comprising the state of Jordan which lies on the "other side" of the River Jordan. In English, the name Cisjordan is also occasionally used to designate the entire region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the historical context of the British Mandate and earlier times. The use of Cisjordan to refer to the smaller region discussed in this article, while common in scholarly fields including archaeology, is rare in general English usage; the name West Bank is standard usage for this geo-political entity. For the low-lying area immediately west of the Jordan, the name Jordan Valley is used instead.



The territory now known as the West Bank was a part of the British Mandate of Palestine entrusted to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations after World War I. The terms of the Mandate called for the creation in Palestine of a Jewish national home without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population of Palestine.[6] During that time the area was called by the historic names of its two regions – Judea and Samaria.[7]

The current border of the West Bank was not a dividing line of any sort during the Mandate period, but rather the armistice line between the forces of the neighboring kingdom of Jordan and those of Israel at the close of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. When the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally administered enclave of Jerusalem, a more broad region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State. The West Bank was controlled by Iraqi, Jordanian forces, and the IDF in the northern West Bank especially Tulkarm and Qalqilya were under full Israeli control at the end of the 1948 War. Jordan annexed the West Bank after the war, though this was only recognized by the UK and Pakistan.[8] The idea of an independent Palestinian state was not on the table. King Abdullah of Jordan was crowned King of Jerusalem and granted Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Jordanian citizenship.[9]

During the 1950s, there was a significant influx of Palestinian refugees and violence together with Israeli reprisal raids across the "Green Line".

In May 1967 Egypt ordered out U.N. peacekeeping troops and re-militarized the Sinai peninsula, and blockaded the straits of Tiran. Fearing an Egyptian attack, the government of Levi Eshkol attempted to restrict any confrontation to Egypt alone. In particular it did whatever it could to avoid fighting Jordan. However, "carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism", on May 30, 1967 King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed a mutual defense treaty in which the two countries agreed to consider "any armed attack on either state or its forces as an attack on both".[10][11] On June 5, the Israel Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt[12] which began what came to be known as the Six Day War.

Jordan soon began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv.[13] Despite this, Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, "the die was cast".[10] On the evening of June 5 the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted.[14] Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Government House was captured, which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem.[15] On June 6 Dayan encircled the city, but, fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, he ordered his troops not to go in. However, upon hearing that the U.N. was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city.[14] After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on 7 June.

No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. However, when intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river, Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank.[15] Over the next two days, the IDF swiftly captured the rest of the West Bank and blew up the Abdullah and Hussein Bridges over the Jordan, thereby severing the West Bank from the East.[16] According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem's security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.[17]

The Arab League's Khartoum conference in September declared continuing belligerency, and stated the league's principles of "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it".[18] In November 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously adopted, calling for "the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" to be achieved by "the application of both the following principles:" "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" (see semantic dispute) and: "Termination of all claims or states of belligerency" and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon entered into consultations with the UN Special representative over the implementation of 242.[19] The text did not refer to the PLO or to any Palestinian representative because none was recognized at that time.

In 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."[20][21]


Map of West Bank settlements and closures in January 2006: Yellow = Palestinian urban centers. Light pink = closed military areas or settlement boundary areas or areas isolated by the Israeli West Bank Barrier; dark pink = settlements, outposts or military bases. The black line = route of the Barrier

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 areas:

Area Control Administration % of WB
% of WB
A Palestinian Palestinian 17% 55%
B Israeli Palestinian 24% 41%
C Israeli Israeli 59% 4%[22]

Area A comprises Palestinian towns, and some rural areas away from Israeli population centers in the north (between Jenin, Nablus, Tubas, and Tulkarm), the south (around Hebron), and one in the center south of Salfit. Area B adds other populated rural areas, many closer to the center of the West Bank. Area C contains all the Israeli settlements, roads used to access the settlements, buffer zones (near settlements, roads, strategic areas, and Israel), and almost all of the Jordan Valley,East Jerusalem, and Judean Desert.

Areas A and B are themselves divided among 227 separate areas (199 of which are smaller than 2 square kilometres (1 sq mi)) that are separated from one another by Israeli-controlled Area C. [23] 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.

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.[24]

The Palestinian Authority has some "civil control" in area A, area B is characterized by some joint-administration between the PA and Israel, while area C is under full Israeli control. Israel maintains overall control over Israeli settlements,land, roads, water, airspace, "external" security and borders for the entire territory.

An assessment by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 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.[25]


In December 2007, an official Census conducted by the Palestinian Authority found that the Palestinian population of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) was 2,345,000.[26][27]

There are over 350,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, as well as around 210,000 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. Interactions between the two societies have generally declined following the Palestinian First Intifada and Second Intifada, though an economic relationship often exists between adjacent Israeli and Palestinian Arab villages.[citation needed]

As of October 2007, around 23,000 Palestinians in the West Bank work in Israel every day with another 9,200 working in Israeli settlements. In addition, around 10,000 Palestinian traders from the West Bank are allowed to travel every day into Israel.[28]

Approximately 30% of Palestinians living in the West Bank are refugees or descendants of refugees from villages and towns located in what became Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (see Palestinian exodus), 754,263 in June 2008 according to UNRWA statistics.[29][30][31]

Significant population centers

Significant population centers
Center Population
Al-Bireh 40,000[citation needed]
Betar Illit 29,355[citation needed]
Bethlehem 176,000[32]
Gush Etzion 40,000[citation needed]
Hebron (al-Khalil) 552,000[32]
Jericho & Al Aghwar 42,000[32]
Jenin 256,000[32]
Ma'ale Adummim 33,259[citation needed]
Modi'in Illit 34,514[citation needed]
Nablus 321,000[32]
Qalqilyah 91,000[32]
Ramallah & Al-Bireh 280,000[32]
Tulkarm 158,000[32]
Yattah 42,000[citation needed]

The most densely populated part of the region is a mountainous spine, running north-south, where the Palestinian cities of East Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Abu Dis, Bethlehem, Hebron and Yattah are located as well as the Israeli settlements of Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Betar Illit. Ramallah, although relatively small in population compared to other major cities, serves as an economic and political center for the Palestinians. Jenin in the extreme north of the West Bank 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.

Transportation and communication


Checkpoint before entering Jericho, 2005

The West Bank has 4,500 km (2,796 mi) of roads, of which 2,700 km (1,678 mi) are paved.[citation needed]

In response to shootings by Palestinians, some highways, especially those leading to Israeli settlements, were completely inaccessible to cars with Palestinian license plates, while many other roads were restricted only to public transportation and to Palestinians who have special permits from Israeli authorities.[33][34][35] Due to numerous shooting assaults targeting Israeli vehicles, the IDF bars Israelis from using most of the original roads in the West Bank. At certain times, Israel maintained more than 600 checkpoints or roadblocks in the region.[36] 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.[37] Since the beginning of 2005, there has been some amelioration of these restrictions. According to reports, "Israel has made efforts to improve transport contiguity for Palestinians travelling in the West Bank. It has done this by constructing underpasses and bridges (28 of which have been constructed and 16 of which are planned) that link Palestinian areas separated from each other by Israeli settlements and bypass roads"[38] and by removal of checkpoints and physical obstacles, or by not reacting to Palestinian removal or natural erosion of other obstacles. "The impact (of these actions) is most felt by the easing of movement between villages and between villages and the urban centres".[38]

However, some obstacles encircling major Palestinian urban hubs, particularly Nablus and Hebron, have remained. In addition, the IDF prohibits Israeli citizens from entering Palestinian-controlled land (Area A).

As of August 2007, a divided highway is currently under construction that will pass through the West Bank. The highway 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 freely pass north-south through Israeli-held land.[39]


The only airport in the west bank is the Atarot Airport near Ramallah, but it has been closed since 2001.


The Palestinian Paltel telecommunication companies provide communication services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip such as landline, cellular network and Internet. Dialling code +970 is used in the West Bank and all over Palestinian territories within Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian mobile market was until 2007 monopolized by Jawwal. A new mobile operator launched in 2009 under the name of Wataniya Telecom in Palestine. The number of internet users is increasing rapidly (160,000 users in 2005)[40]

Radio and television

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 are 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.

Higher education

An-Najah National University started as an elementary school in 1918 and became a community college in 1963. As the Jordanian government did not allow the establishment of such universities in the West Bank, Palestinians could obtain degrees only by travelling abroad to places such as Jordan, Lebanon, or Europe. After the Six-Day War, several educational institutions began offering undergraduate courses, while others opened up as entirely new universities. Seven Universities have been operating in the West Bank since 1967:

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 degrees had obtained them from Palestinian institutions.[41] According to UNESCO, Palestinians are one of the most highly educated groups in the Middle East "despite often difficult circumstances".[42] The literacy rate among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (93,8%) is second highest in the region after Israel (97,1%).[43]


Bedouin and his camel on the road to Jericho

Seventy-five percent of the population is Muslim. 17 percent of the population is Jewish and the remaining 8 percent are Christians and others.[44]

Legal status

The United Nations Security Council,[45] the United Nations General Assembly,[46] the International Court of Justice,[47] and the International Committee of the Red Cross[48] refer to it as occupied by Israel.

According to Alan Dowty,

" ... legally the status of the West Bank falls under the international law of belligerent occupation, as distinguished from nonbelligerent occupation that follows an armistice. This assumes the possibility of renewed fighting, and affords the occupier "broad leeway". The West Bank has a unique status in two respects; first, there is no precedent for a belligerent occupation lasting for more than a brief period, and second, that the West Bank was not part of a sovereign country before occupation—thus, in legal terms, there is no "reversioner" for the West Bank. This means that sovereignty of the West Bank is currently suspended, and, according to some, Israel, as the only successor state to the Palestine Mandate, has a status that "goes beyond that of military occupier alone."[49]

The current status arises from the facts (see above reference) that Great Britain surrendered its mandate in 1948. Since the area has never in modern times been an independent state, there is no "legitimate" claimant to the area other than the present occupier, which currently happens to be Israel. This argument however is not accepted by the international community and international lawmaking bodies, virtually all of whom regard Israel's activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation that denies the fundamental principle of self-determination found in the Article One of the United Nations Charter, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 242 notes the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" regardless of whether the war in which the territory was acquired was offensive or defensive. Prominent Israeli human rights organizations such as B'tselem also refer to the Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an occupation.[50] John Quigley has noted that "...a state that uses force in self-defense may not retain territory it takes while repelling an attack. If Israel had acted in self-defense, that would not justify its retention of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Under the UN Charter there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even by a state acting in self-defense. The response of other states to Israel's occupation shows a virtually unanimous opinion that even if Israel's action were defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was not."[51]

Political positions

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 current 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 outposts. Since neither condition has been met since the Road Map was "accepted," by all sides, final negotiations have not yet begun on major political differences.

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 (see Israeli-occupied territories). The United States State Department also refers to the territories as occupied.[52][53][54] Many Israelis and their supporters prefer the term disputed territories, because they claim part of the territory for themselves, and state the land has not, in 2000 years, been sovereign.

Israel argues[citation needed] that its presence is justified because:

  1. Israel's eastern border has never been defined by anyone;
  2. The disputed territories have not been part of any state since the time of the Ottoman Empire;
  3. According to the Camp David Accords with Egypt, the 1994 agreement with Jordan and the Oslo Accords with the PLO, the final status of the territories would be fixed only when there was a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian public opinion opposes Israeli military and settler presence on the West Bank as a violation of their right to statehood and sovereignty.[55] Israeli opinion is split into a number of views:

  • Complete or partial withdrawal from the West Bank in hopes of peaceful coexistence in separate states (sometimes called the "land for peace" position); (According to a 2003 poll 76% of Israelis support a peace agreement based on that principle).[56]
  • Maintenance of a military presence in the West Bank to reduce Palestinian terrorism by deterrence or by armed intervention, while relinquishing some degree of political control;
  • Annexation of the West Bank while considering the Palestinian population with Palestinian Authority citezenship with Israeli residence permit as per the Elon Peace Plan;
  • Annexation of the West Bank and assimilation of the Palestinian population to fully fledged Israeli citizens, the most likely solution.;
  • Transfer of the East Jerusalem Palestinian population (a 2002 poll at the height of the Al Aqsa intifada found 46% of Israelis favoring Palestinian transfer of Jerusalem residents;[57] in 2005 two polls using a different methodology put the number at approximately 30%).[58]


Principal geographical features of Israel and south-eastern Mediterranean region

Israel annexed the territory of East Jerusalem, and its Palestinian residents (if they should decline Israeli citizenship) have legal permanent residency status.[59][60] 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.[61] There are various possible reasons as to why the West Bank had not been annexed[62] 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:

  • Reluctance to award its citizenship to an overwhelming number of a potentially hostile population whose allies were sworn to the destruction of Israel. [63][64]
  • To ultimately exchange land for peace with neighbouring states[63][64]
  • Fear that the population of ethnic Arabs, including Israeli citizens of Palestinian ethnicity, would outnumber the Jewish Israelis west of the Jordan River.[63][62]

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,

"Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish state - not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish."[65]

Settlements and international law

Israeli settlements on the West Bank beyond the Green Line border are considered by the United Nation among others to be illegal under international law.[66][67][68][69] Other legal scholars[70] including Julius Stone,[71] have argued that the settlements are legal under international law, on a number of different grounds. The Independent reported in March 2006 that 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".[72][73] A contrasting opinion was held by Eugene Rostow, a former Dean of the Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs in the administration of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who wrote in 1991 that Israel has a right to have settlements in the West Bank under 1967's UN Security Council Resolution 242.[74] The European Union[75] and the Arab League[citation needed] consider the settlements to be illegal. Israel also recognizes that some small settlements are "illegal" in the sense of being in violation of Israeli law.[76][77]

In 2005 the United States ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, expressed U.S. support "for the retention by Israel of major Israeli population centres [in the West Bank] as an outcome of negotiations",[78] reflecting President Bush's statement a year earlier that a permanent peace treaty would have to reflect "demographic realities" on the West Bank.[79]

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 [the] practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity, and it calls on Israel as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.[80]

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."[81]

On December 30, 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.[82]

West Bank barrier

West Bank Barrier (Separating Wall) View from Bethlehem City

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a physical barrier being constructed by Israel, consisting of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 metres (197 ft) wide exclusion area (90%) and up to 8 metres (26 ft) high concrete walls (10%) (although in most areas the wall is not nearly that high).[83] 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 (436 miles) long. Approximately 58.4% has been constructed, 8.96% is under construction, and construction has not yet begun on 33% of the barrier.[84] 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 tens of villages and tens of thousands of Palestinians.[85].[86]

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.

The barrier is a very controversial project. Supporters claim the barrier is a necessary tool protecting Israeli civilians from the Palestinian attacks that increased significantly during the Al-Aqsa Intifada;[87][88] 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,[89] though Israel's State Comptroller has acknowledged that most of the suicide bombers crossed into Israel through existing checkpoints [10]. Its supporters claim that the onus is now on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism.[90]

Opponents claim the barrier is an illegal attempt to annex Palestinian land under the guise of security,[91] violates international law,[92] has the intent or effect to pre-empt final status negotiations,[93] and severely restricts Palestinians who live nearby, particularly their ability to travel freely within the West Bank and to access work in Israel, thereby undermining their economy.[94] According to a 2007 World Bank report, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has destroyed the Palestinian economy, in violation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. All major roads (with a total length of 700 km) are basically off-limits to Palestinians, making it impossible to do normal business. Economic recovery would reduce Palestinian dependence on international aid by one billion dollars per year.[95]

Pro-settler opponents claim that the barrier is a sly attempt to artificially create a border that excludes the settlers, creating "facts on the ground" that justify the mass dismantlement of hundreds of settlements and displacement of over 100,000 Jews from the land they claim as their biblical homeland.[96]

See also


  1. ^ Dishon (1973) Dishon Record 1968 Published by Shiloah Institute (later the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies) and John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0470216115 p 441
  2. ^ The World Factbook - Field Listing :: Coastline, Central Intelligence Agency
  3. ^ It is often stated that Pakistan recognized it as well, but that seems to be untrue; see S. R. Silverburg, Pakistan and the West Bank: A research note, Middle Eastern Studies, 19:2 (1983) 261-263.
  4. ^ Anger at Israeli settlement plan, BBC, 7 September 2009
  5. ^ See Geography of the West Bank.
  6. ^ The Palestine Mandate
  7. ^ "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181". United Nations. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/res181.asp. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  8. ^ Gerson, Allan. Israel, the West Bank and international law. Routledge, 1978. p. 78
  9. ^ Armstrong, Karen. Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996. p. 387.
  10. ^ a b "In May-June 1967 Eshkol's government did everything in its power to confine the confrontation to the Egyptian front. Eshkol and his colleagues took into account the possibility of some fighting on the Syrian front. But they wanted to avoid having a clash with Jordan and the inevitable complications of having to deal with the predominantly Non-Jewish Arab population of the West Bank. The fighting on the eastern front was initiated by Jordan, not by Israel. King Hussein got carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism. On 30 May he flew to Cairo and signed a defense pact with Nasser. On 5 June, Jordan started shelling the Israeli side in Jerusalem. This could have been interpreted either as a salvo to uphold Jordanian honor or as a declaration of war. Eshkol decided to give King Hussein the benefit of the doubt. Through General Odd Bull, the Norwegian commander of UNTSO, he sent the following message the morning of 5 June: 'We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan. However, should Jordan open hostilities, we shall react with all our might, and the king will have to bear the full responsibility of the consequences.' King Hussein told General Bull that it was too late; the die was cast." Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, pp. 243–244.
  11. ^ Michael Oren, Six Days of War, Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0195151747, p. 130
  12. ^ Pre-emptive strike:
    • "In a pre-emptive attack on Egypt ..." Israel and the Palestinians in depth, 1967: Six Day War, BBC website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt." BBC on this day, BBC website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on June 5" Mideast 101: The Six Day War, CNN website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "Most historians now agree that although Israel struck first, this pre-emptive strike was defensive in nature." The Mideast: A Century of Conflict Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War, NPR morning edition, October 3, 2002. URL accessed May 14, 2006.
    • "a massive preemptive strike by Israel that crippled the Arabs’ air capacity." SIX-DAY WAR, Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. © 2006 World Almanac Education Group via The History Channel website, 2006, URL accessed February 17, 2007.
    • "In a pre-emptive strike, Israel smashed its enemies’ forces in just six days ..." Country Briefings: Israel, The Economist website, Jul 28th 2005. URL accessed March 15, 2007.
    • "Yet pre-emptive strikes can often be justified even if they don't meet the letter of the law. At the start of the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel, fearing that Egypt was aiming to destroy the Jewish state, devastated Egypt's air force before its pilots had scrambled their jets." Strike First, Explain Yourself Later Michael Elliott, Time, Jul. 01, 2002. URL accessed March 15, 2007.
    • "the situation was similar to the crisis that preceded the 1967 Six Day war, when Israel took preemptive military action." Delay with Diplomacy, Marguerite Johnson, Time, May 18, 1981. URL accessed March 15, 2007.
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    Following Egyptian actions:
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    • "After Israel declared its statehood, several Arab states and Palestinian groups immediately attacked Israel, only to be driven back. In 1956 Israel overran Egypt in the Suez-Sinai War. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser vowed to avenge Arab losses and press the cause of Palestinian nationalism. To this end, he organized an alliance of Arab states surrounding Israel and mobilized for war." Six-Day War, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. URL accessed April 10, 2007.
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  • Albin, Cecilia (2001). Justice and Fairness in International Negotiation. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-79725-X
  • Bamberger, David (1985, 1994). A Young Person's History of Israel. Behrman House. ISBN 0-87441-393-1
  • Dowty, Alan (2001). The Jewish State: A Century Later. University of California Press. ISBN 0520229118
  • Oren, Michael (2002). Six Days of War, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195151747
  • Gibney, Mark and Frankowski, Stanislaw (1999). Judicial Protection of Human Rights. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-96011-0
  • Playfair, Emma (Ed.) (1992). International Law and the Administration of Occupied Territories. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-825297-8
  • Shlaim, Avi (2000). The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393048160
  • Howell, Mark (2007). What Did We Do to Deserve This? Palestinian Life under Occupation in the West Bank, Garnet Publishing. ISBN 1859641954
  • Gorenberg, Gershom. "The Accidental Empire". Times Books, Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-8241-7. 2006.

External links

Coordinates: 32°00′N 35°23′E / 32°N 35.383°E / 32; 35.383

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

For other places with the same name, see West Bank (disambiguation).

The West Bank is a Palestinian Territory and an area of Jewish settlement in the Middle East between Israel and Jordan, to the north of the Dead Sea. Depending on where one travels the area is controlled by Palestinian authorities, Israel or even both. It is known as the West Bank because it lies on the western bank of the Jordan River. This part of the world is steeped in biblical history and contains many sites of religious and archaeological significance. It has been under Israeli administration since 1967 with future status uncertain. Therefore, legally it is deemed not part of any sovereign nation.

  • Beit Jala (بيت جالا/בית ג'אלה)
  • Bethlehem (بيت لحم/בית לחם)
  • Jenin (جنين/ג'נין)
  • Jericho (أريحا/יריחו)
  • Nablus (نابلس/שׁכם)
  • Qalqilyah (قلقيلية/קלקיליה)
  • Ramallah (رام الله/רמאללה)
  • Salfit (سلفيت/סלפית)
  • Tulkarm (طولكرم/טולכרם)
  • Ariel (אריאל)
  • Betar Illit (ביתר עילית)
  • Gush Etzion
  • Ma'ale Adummim (מעלה אדומים)
  • Modi'in Illit (מודיעין עילית‎)
Map of West Bank
Map of West Bank

Within the political dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis there are two presentations of the West Bank. In Israeli terms it is called the regions of Judea, Samaria and Benjamin. Some Israelis see the West Bank territories as historically Jewish land and claim a biblical/historical birthright to resettle it by building settlements there. Israel is also building a security barrier partly within the West Bank, officially aimed at preventing the infiltration of terrorists into Israel's official pre-1967 borders and to isolate Jewish settlements from Palestinian populated areas. The Palestinians and the PNA claim this region, in addition the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as the territory of a future Palestinian state. There are 300,000 Jews and around 2.5 million Arabs living in the territory. Officially, the West Bank is not part of any country, but deemed under Israeli administration until a final peace agreement between the two above parties.


Temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters.


Mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in west, but barren in east.

  • lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
  • highest point: Tall Asur 1,022 m


The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP), signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, provided for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes the Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of the interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and in additional areas of the West Bank pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for foreign and domestic security and public order of settlements and Israeli citizens. Direct negotiations to determine the permanent status of Gaza and West Bank had begun in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus, but have been derailed by a second intifadah that broke out in September 2000. The resulting widespread violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel's military response, and instability within the Palestinian Authority continue to undermine progress toward a permanent agreement. Futhermore, Fatah control Arab West Bank Cities, whilst the Yesha Council via the authority of Israel controls and manages Jewish revenant areas.

The Israeli built security barrier
The Israeli built security barrier

By plane

There are no civilian airports within the West Bank, and the the nearest major airport is Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion. From Ben Gurion Airport, it is possible to take a 50 minute taxi or train ride to Jerusalem.

Note that Palestinian citizens and their descendants living abroad cannot travel to Israel or the Palestinian Authority through Ben Gurion Airport. The Israeli government requires them to fly to Amman, Jordan and enter via the Allenby Bridge border crossing in the West Bank.

Some Arab families with non-Israeli passports or other citizenships have been stranded because of the new airport requirement. Even if a person of Israeli Arab descent enters through Ben Gurion Airport they cannot leave using the same method.

By car

To enter the West Bank, take a shared taxi from Abu Dis to the city you are traveling to. Before entering Area A, you will come to a checkpoint, where you will be required to show your passport, verify your citizenship, and complete a security check. From the checkpoint you can take a shared taxi to your destination.

Driving in the West Bank is not recommended at any time due to the political situation. As most car-hire companies in Israel have different rules, agreements and regulations, you may or may not be able to drive a hired/rented car to areas in the West Bank under Israeli authority. Inquire with whatever company you plan on using to get their policy on the issue.

There are numerous car hire companies that will rent you a car in Ramallah which you can freely drive around the West Bank although you cannot enter Jewish settlements. Palestinian car-hire companies located in occupied East Jerusalem will rent you Israeli cars which can travel in most parts of the West Bank and throughout Israel. The aptly named Good Luck Cars [1] have great service.

If you do happen to drive to areas within the West Bank, take heed and uphold security precautions at all times. Palestinian Militia used to frequently attack cars traveling in the West Bank with Israeli license plates. Likewise, in Israeli areas any NGOs such as ISM or UN designated vehicles, which may be seen by Jewish settlers as anti-semitically invoked, could easily get fire bombed or harassed [citation needed]. Roads in the West Bank may not be in a good condition. Damage to cars resulted from driving in the West Bank may not be covered, as many insurance policies are invalid outside of Israel proper. It may be best to have a heavily robust car, such as a Jeep or Jaguar, when driving through these provinces.

It is also not possible to drive from Jordan to the West Bank.

Also, It must be noted that taking a taxi on Palestinian roads can take several times longer if you are stopped at an IDF checkpoint, and frequently requires you to walk across roadblocks and catch another taxi on the opposite side.

By bus or shared taxi

Bus service to Jewish settlements in the West Bank can generally be found in the major Israeli city which is closest to each West Bank town - particularly Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Egged (אגד) bus company runs buses from Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, Netanya, and Beit Shean. The Dan bus company runs from Tel Aviv and Petach Tikva. Due to recent political violence, the Israeli government has installed enhanced security on buses such as bullet proof windows (on certain routes) and crash barriers at bus stops. Still, traveling by bus is discouraged for first time visitors.

There are also Arab bus companies going into the West Bank from the bus depot in East Jerusalem, for prices comparable to service taxis, theoretically running on schedules.

For reaching Palestinian cities in the West Bank, Service Taxis (shared taxis, pronounced Servees) are preferable over Egged buses. They are extremely cheap (6.5 NIS from Jerusalem to Ramallah; 4 NIS to Bethlehem; 15 NIS to Hebron), and travel quite fast on the road. The service taxi is a great place to mingle with the locals.

A visibly (by dress/behavior not facial features) Jewish person traveling by Palestinian transportation runs the risk of being kidnapped and killed. A visibly Arab person on Jewish transportation (in the West Bank, not within Israel) may attract suspicion and will perhaps be kicked off, or perhaps arrested if the police are called. Behave like a foreign tourist and you should be OK either way.

By train

There are no train routes in the West Bank, though proposals for train service are occasionally made.

Get around

Highways : total: 4,500 km
paved: 2,700 km
unpaved: 1,800 km (1997 est.)

Taxis are your best bet. If you're part of a tour, your tour bus is even better. Delays at checkpoints are common when you enter or leave Palestinian cities.


The main languages in the West Bank are Arabic and Hebrew, although American English and French are also understood. Many Palestinians understand Hebrew, due to business and governmental contacts over the last 40+ years. But avoid speaking Hebrew in Palestinian cities and Arabic in Jewish settlements, as it may arouse suspicion. Russian is also common among students who have gone to university in Russia or Eastern Europe. A few Israeli settlements contain Hasidic Jews who speak Yiddish.


Currency is Israeli Shekels, though US dollars seem to be widely accepted, especially at tourist shops (Jericho and Bethlehem, for example)


Ramallah has a number of good restaurants, including Darna (Palestinian and Lebanese food--there are pictures on the wall of many famous people who have visited, including Kofi Annan, Richard Gere and Jimmy Carter), Pronto (excellent pizza and Italian food), Ziryab (relaxing place with a fireplace), Stone's and Sangria's. There is an excellent ice cream shop in downtown called Rukab's. The locally-made ice cream is a real treat on a hot day, in addition to the fresh juice shops around the central square, Al-Manara.

Falafel, Shawarma, Hummus, Musakhan, Tabouli, Kofta, Knafeh, Kibbeh, Maqluba, Baba Ghanoush, and other delicious cuisine is widely available.

The settlement of Beitar Ilit has a great bar that serves Kosher Chicken soup with harif. The settlement of Ariel has many fast food restaurants and other tasty kosher treats.


In cities, such as Ramallah, alcohol is often available at restaurants. Be aware that the West Bank is predominately religious, and as such public displays of intoxication are considered rude, and are possibly dangerous.


Ramallah: Grand Park Hotel, Best Eastern, City Inn, Rocky. The Movenpick is due to open by the end of 2009.

In the settlement of Ariel, Eshel HaShomron 5* Deluxe Hotel [2].


Birzeit University, just outside of Ramallah, has a long and illustrious history, and offers Arabic classes. In addition, there is an Palestinian-American University in Jenin and An-Najah in Nablus. There is also the Palestinian-American University of Jenin located in Zababdeh.

Ariel University Center is the largest Israeli-run educational institute in the West Bank. It is called a "University Center" rather than a "University" because official universities get a certain level of government support, and left-wing Israeli politicians do not want to be supporting West Bank settlement in this way. For religious education, many Yeshivot are located in various West Bank towns.

If you are interested in learning about the social, political and cultural facets of life in the West Bank, there is a first hand experience tour, run by the All Nations Cafe [3] from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where you can get to know Palestinians and Jews who live in the West Bank.

Stay safe

Watch the news and check the situation before you go. It isn't a good idea to visit if fighting between Hamas and Fatah, or between the Palestinians and Israelis, happens to be intense at the given time. However, violence in the West Bank tends to be very localized. Violence in Shechem, for instance, shouldn't necessarly hinder travel to Ramallah. Still, use discretion.

While non-Israeli Jews are generally left alone, symbols associated with the State of Israel or Zionism, such as the Star of David, are best left at home. Israeli citizens generally aren't permitted past Israeli checkpoints into Area A zones, which hold the greatest threat.


The West Bank is less 'religious' than, say, Saudia Arabia, so women travelers don't need to be completely covered. It is still a good idea to dress conservatively. With Palestinians, one should not insult with western mocking jibes at Islam or Arab heroes. Again, like Israel, one should not talk disdainfully about Torah, Holocaust, Jewish History insofar to getting a dirty looks from confident recent Jewish returning exiles in major Jewish settlements.

Be very wary of bringing up politics and the Israel-Palestine conflict, for obvious reasons, although most Palestinians are happy to share their many difficult stories about life under occupation.


Israeli company BEZEK and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for communication services in the West Bank

Get out

Delays may occur at checkpoints unexpectedly, especially if there has been recent violence or political events. Sometimes it may be quicker to walk through a checkpoint on foot rather than on a vehicle, and then take a taxi to your destination once you get through.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

West Bank


West Bank

  1. A territory on the west bank of the Jordan river, claimed by both Israel and Palestine.


Simple English

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The West Bank is a piece of land in the Middle East. It touches the Dead Sea and the River Jordan, and the landscape is pretty dry. Right now, it is under the control of nearby Israel, some countries and the United Nations say. But some Israelis and other groups (Especially other Muslim groups and nations) disagree on whose it really is.

Right now, talks between the Israeli government, and the Palestinian National Authority, which leads Palestine, are happening. These talks are about what will happen in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the future. Most people on the West Bank are Palestinians but there also live many Jewish settlers in kibbutzes (settlements). There has been some controversity about those settlement, who are being build on Palestinian land against the will of the Islamic inhabitants.


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