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Who are Israeli settlers and why are they so controversial?

The controversial Israeli settlement movement, which has gotten stronger over time and is perceived by the outside world as a significant obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, has drawn attention from the White House.On Thursday, the State Department imposed the initial batch of penalties on Israeli settlers. There are claims that the settlers in the West Bank perpetrated violent acts. Sanctions prevent them from entering the US and from using US financial assets. Since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7, when the Palestinian militant group launched an offensive on Israel that resulted in the murder of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of over 250 more, the penalties are among Biden’s more consequential efforts to censure Israel.

Following Israel’s shelling of Gaza, over 27,000 Palestinians lost their lives. Remarkably less well known, at least 370 Palestinians have died in the occupied West Bank over that time; 94 of them were children. Although Israeli soldiers murdered nearly all of them, there has also been a noticeable increase in settler violence in the West Bank since the conflict started. Settlers have a history of attacking and killing Palestinians, destroying property, and setting cars on fire.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the post-war creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza has received support from the White House.

The West Bank’s Israeli Settlements are the subject of controversy.

In the US move, just four settlers were directly targeted. The international community claims that the 700,000 of them that currently reside on the West Bank are not allowed to remain there. The majority of the world supports the Palestinians’ desire for a future state that includes Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank.In the 1967 war, Israel took over the Golan Heights from Syria, the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. It started building Israeli settlements on those lands not long after that.It still maintains naval and physical control over Gaza in addition to East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank.

The bulk of Jewish settlements are located in the West Bank, where 3.3 million Palestinians call home. Even after signing the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, which called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as part of a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel has been expanding settlements for decades.The West Bank (apart from East Jerusalem) has 146 settlements, many of which are encroaching on Palestinian neighbourhoods and, occasionally, privately held land. Some are situated near Palestinian residential areas, while one in Hebron is situated in the centre of a Palestinian community. There are fourteen Israeli neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

Israeli Settlements’ Effects on Peace and the Statehood of the Palestinian People

The settlements pose a serious threat to peace and obstruct the creation of a contiguous, autonomous Palestinian state in the West Bank, according to both Palestinians and Israel’s Western backers.Jewish Israelis who reside in Israeli-occupied land, typically in settlements established by the Israeli government, are known as settlers. Even though some decide to live in the West Bank due to the lower cost of living and housing subsidies offered by the Israeli government, many settlers are motivated by ideology and feel they have a divine right to inhabit the region as outlined by the bible. The Jewish population in the occupied West Bank exceeds 450,000.

While Palestinians are subject to Israeli military administration, must pass through Israeli military checkpoints, and are primarily prohibited from accessing Jewish settlements, settlers in the West Bank are governed by Israeli citizens and have access to their own road and transit networks. Israeli and international humanitarian organisations have called the dual system—one for Jews and one for Palestinians—an apartheid system; Israel angrily disputes this claim.Armed to the teeth, a number of settlers have attacked Palestinian residents with deadly force. At least eight Palestinians have perished as a result of settlement violence since the Israel-Hamas conflict began.

The Effect of Settlers on Israeli Politics and Regional Governance

Over time, settlers in Israel have become increasingly powerful politically. Two of the parties in the current Israeli coalition government are supported by settlement groups, whose leaders are based in the West Bank and have advocated for the growth of Jewish enclaves within occupied territory.Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict, there have been increasing calls for the migration of Jews to Gaza, and some Israeli officials have embraced this proposal. Conversely, Israel has maintained that its official stance is that it has no plans to reoccupy or colonise the region.

The Oslo Accords, which Israel agreed with the Palestinians, formed the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has its main office in Ramallah, as an interim Palestinian government for the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank was divided into three pieces by the pact: A, B, and C. The PA continues to serve as the official command centre for administration and security in Area A, which makes up 18% of the total area. Area B, or twenty-two percent, is divided between Israel’s security authority and the PA’s administrative control. Additionally, Israeli security and administrative authorities oversee Area C, which makes up 60% of the West Bank.

The Lawfulness of Settlements: Violation of Global Law

Legally speaking, the settlements are against international law. In regards to civilian populations during times of conflict, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”This view is supported by UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted in December 2016 and over which the US did not veto. According to this, settlements are “a flagrant violation under international law” and have “no legal validity.” The preceding Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 446, 452, 465, 476, 478, 1397, 1515, and 1850 are cited in this resolution. In 1980, it was established by 465, 476, and 478 of these that settlements have “no legal validity.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu oversaw the publication of the 2012 Levy Commission Report, which provided an overview of this legal stance. The report argued that the West Bank was never a valid part of any Arab state and thus rejected the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank.The report stated that Israel’s position in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is not covered by agreements regarding the management of occupied land and an occupied population.

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