[T]he Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Eastern Jerusalem have become one of the most argumentative issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The collision of Jewish nationalist colonization and Palestinian nationalism, both laying claim to the same territory, forms the basis of this long conflict.
Since 1967 Israeli governments gradually allowed and eventually managed the creation of more and more civilian Israeli communities in the occupied territories. As of May 2009, around 280,000 Israeli citizens live in 121 West Bank settlements, apart from Arab East Jerusalem, home to another estimated 190,000 Israelis. Many of Israel’s military analysts hold the view that the ‘security’ settlements are vital for Israel’s safety and may prevent hostile acts within the Green Line (Israel’s pre 1967 borders). UN Resolutions 242 and 338 stipulate that Israel must withdraw completely from the occupied territories. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, however Jewish Settlements still exist in other territories.
The United Nations considers such settlements to be a violation of international law, though this is disputed by the State of Israel and some legal scholars. Under Israeli law, West Bank settlements must meet specific criteria to be legal. Unauthorized communities which do not meet these criteria are considered illegal outposts. Israeli policy toward the settlements has ranged from active promotion to removal by force. The Oslo Accords (1993) and the Road Map (2003) have failed to reach a land agreement between the parties. Since year 2002 the Israeli government has been building a ‘security fence’ which winds deep into Palestinian territory, claiming the barrier would keep Palestinian suicide bombers from striking Israeli citizens.
To many Palestinians the establishment of Jewish settlements is an ongoing effort to remove Palestinians from their land. The settlements have been carried out with the bulldozing of Arab homes and confiscation of land. Opponents of settlements on both sides argue that they have had a profoundly negative effect on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.