The ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is a major obstacle to the achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace, is a systemic injustice violating the rights of the Palestinian people, and poses a severe threat to Israel’s long-term future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. Military rule over millions of Palestinians who lack civil and political rights represents a daily infringement on the basic rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people, and has been extremely detrimental to Israel’s democracy, security, economy and regional standing.
J Street strongly opposes de jure unilateral Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. Unilateral annexation is deliberately intended to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and would institutionalize a system in which stateless Palestinian residents of the West Bank are ruled permanently and undemocratically by Israel. It would fundamentally betray the democratic principles of Israel’s founders, severely imperil the US-Israel relationship and make it nearly impossible to maintain strong bipartisan support for Israel in the US. Accordingly, it is opposed by the majority of Israelis and the overwhelming majority of the Israeli security establishment.
Just as critically, J Street opposes settlement expansion, demolitions of Palestinian homes, lack of freedom of movement, denial of access to water and other forms of “creeping” or de facto annexation that are also designed to entrench the occupation, to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state and to make it impossible for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peaceful resolution to their conflict.
In order to help prevent de jure annexation from taking place and to push back against the de facto “creeping annexation” taking place every day, J Street believes that responsible American lawmakers and political leaders must warn Israeli leaders that unilateral annexation of any kind will have serious, tangible ramifications for the US-Israel relationship.
US officials and Members of Congress should clearly and consistently refer to West Bank settlements as illegal, as the position of the US government has done in the past and as is the view of the United Nations and most other countries, including all of the European Union. They should make clear that the United States will not object to due criticism by international organizations of Israeli actions in the occupied territories, while continuing to oppose efforts on the world stage that unfairly or disproportionately target Israel. They should reinforce through executive action and legislation the legal differentiation between the State of Israel proper and the occupied Palestinian territories, including ensuring that settlement products sold in the United States are not labelled as “Made in Israel” and that US laws applying to Israel are applied only to the state itself and not to the West Bank. They should make clear that the US will not help foot the bill for the implementation of unilateral annexation and the entrenchment of occupation, and accordingly will consider how to restrict the uses to which US aid can be put by the Israeli government.
“I heard settlements only take up around 2 percent of the West Bank, why do you think they’re an obstacle to peace?”
Furthermore, many areas zoned for settlements, such as E-1, threaten to bisect and divide the West Bank in ways that would make drawing a contiguous border impossible. In many cases, the placement and expansion of these settlements is deliberately designed to undermine the prospects for a two-state solution.
“Do you really think it’s possible to move so many Israelis out of the West Bank in order to reach a two-state solution?”
The vast majority of the settler population would be incorporated into Israel as part of a land swap. Polling indicates that almost half of the Israelis living beyond the security barrier would voluntarily relocate to Israel proper if they were compensated. So while relocating tens of thousands of settlers would undoubtedly be challenging, it is both logistically possible and necessary.
By the numbers
The number of settlements in the West Bank
The number of illegal outposts in the West Bank
The number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
The percentage of the West Bank zoned for settlements
The amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements
The percent of Israelis living in areas likely to become part of a Palestinian state under a peace agreement who say they’d voluntarily relocate to Israel-proper, if compensated.