No wonder Israelis in general think Norway has it in for Israel.
lifted from the governments own website
THOSE BOTHERSOME SETTLEMENTS
The Embassy of Norway to Tel Aviv 2013 03 15
Almost every month some new Israeli settlement in Palestine is announced; as often, the international community protests. But why are the settlements so bothersome? And what is the long term significance of the Israelis continuing to build settlements?
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the worlds’ best surveyed conflicts. The association of foreign journalists in Israel counts 480 members. Tel Aviv is chock full of diplomats; the worlds political leader are on pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Ramallah
Among themes most closely followed are the Israeli settlements in Palestine (In this context, Palestine is the terminology on what was formerly known as the Palestinian territory: East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank). An European colleague recently told me (probably in jest) that he was thinking of applying for a job in a municipal authority upon returning; as he had spent so much time on zoning laws while here. He is not alone; at least not when it comes to construction projects.
Some may find it to be nitpicking to care about the construction of 100 housing units in Kiryat Arba outside Hebron, or some high rises south of Jerusalem; as the conflict is about so much more than that. All conflicts are however played out in a micro format. Interests, power games, nationalities, ideologies, religions and history is what propels and nourishes the conflicts, in the end it results in actions, individuals who on their own or in concert with others acts against some other. An all these actions may totally have huge outcomes.
The extent of Palestine is about 6000 square kilometers (Of which Gaza counts for 360 square km). In a Norwegian perspective: This is slightly more than Oslo and Akershus combined. Some four million Palestinians are living in this area; with 530 000 Israeli settlers. Today, there are more than 200 Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And many are concerned over these making it difficult to settle a two state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Israeli settlements in Palestine are clearly against International law.
The UNSC, the International Court in Hague and the ICRC all regards the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem to be occupied. By then, the rules of occupation in international law apply.
Independently of the reasons over occupation, international law sets basic limitations over what an occupying power might do. The occupying power, among other issues, may not transfer or encourage the transfer of parts of its population to an occupied area. This would be contrary to the 4th Geneva Convention’s rules on protection of the civil population in the occupied area. The UNSC has in resolutions in 1979 and 1980 decided on the settlement policy being an obvious breach of this convention. In 2004, the International Court confirmed the settlement policy to be in contravention of this rule.
Israel has decided upon national legislation annexing East Jerusalem. This annexation is not recognized by the international community and is clearly in contravention of international law. When it comes to the West Bank, the Israelis attitude is the West Bank being “disputed”, not occupied. However, also the Israeli legal system has confirmed the West Bank to be an occupied area. The Minister of Defense is ruling; even if the Israeli settlements are under civilian Israeli legislation, this is based on military orders.
It is not hard to observe, neither in theory nor in practice, the migration of the population of the occupying power into the occupied area as creating large problems for the population living under occupation. Furthermore, the target of the occupation shall be a temporary condition until a peace solution is in place. And this leads us towards the other big problem:
The Israeli settlements in Palestine threaten the possibility of a two state solution. It is of importance to point out this as being far from the only problem. However, the danger remains over the settlements being in themselves an obstacle great enough to prevent a peace. Furthermore, it is an intended obstacle politically, and it will remain to play a role. Briefly told, it is a problem with which something could be done, if the will is present.
For practical purposes, the Palestinian population in the West Bank is concentrated in the so called A and B areas, consisting of about 40 percent of the West Bank (the tan areas of the map). In the Oslo accords, the area was split in three, the A, the B and C area, in which Israel in a transitional period was to have full civilian and military control over the C area, (some 60 percent of the West Bank). Palestinian civil and military control of the B area (20 percent) and full Palestinian control over the C area (20 percent).
By themselves, the settlements do not take up much space. Only a few percent of the West Bank is physically populated with Israeli houses. However, including infrastructure and security measures surrounding the settlements, far larger areas are being seized, and as the Israeli settlements are not centered in one part of Palestine, but dispersed all over the area, areas under Palestinian control are very segmented and divided.
As Israel and the PLO signed the accords in 1993, some 265 000 Israeli settlers were living in Palestine (150 000 in East Jerusalem and 115 000 in the West Bank and Gaza). By now, twenty years later, some 530 000 are living there (200 000 in East Jerusalem and 330 000 in the West Bank). The image as a macro is that the 20 years of peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, has seen the settlements grow to twice its total size, and three times that in the West Bank.
This is not a problem, Israeli authorities’ claims, as Israeli formerly has shown the will to remove settlements. It is correct to state Israeli withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005 and removed some 7500 settlers (of which some were moved to settlements in the West Bank). Israel withdrew from Sinai following its peace accord with Egypt; there are examples of settlements being removed inside the West Bank. However, with the settlements taking on such large dimensions, possible future withdrawals will have very different dimensions.
Another reason over this not being a problem, it is being claimed, is that construction is only taking place in those parts of Palestine “which in any eventuality will become part of Israel by a peace accord”. Firstly, this is unilateral. The Palestinians do not have the same opportunity to construct in large parts of what is to be a future Palestinian state.
Secondly, it is a truth with modifications. Israel has constructed a security barrier surrounding many of the Israeli settlements, if Israel was to have all of the territory west of the barrier, much larger land exchanges than what is reported to have been discussed at the Camp David process in 2000 and the Olmert/Abbas peace talks in 2008 would have to take place. Even then, some 75 000 settlers would still be on the other side of the border. These are living in settlements constructed in the middle of what is intended to be the Palestinian state. The numbers of settlers in these settlements have tripled in the last twenty years; the same rate of growth as in the settlements closer to Israel, and in the last four years growth rates east of the barrier have been larger than for the other settlements.
The representatives of the Israeli settler movements say the train has left the station, too many settlements have been constructed, the country cannot be divided any further. From several right wing government parties the same voices are being heard, also at the ministerial level, speaking of an Israeli annexation of the C areas.
It is likely there still is an opportunity over a solution with two states living side by side, and in security. Many, also here in Israel, are concerned over time running out. The settlements are playing a key role. Not over being the only cause over the conflict continuing; but because ongoing settlements, as FM Eide stated in a press release on the 3rd of December of 2012, will “reduce the opportunity of a continuous Palestinian territory”. And if a Palestinian state is to come into existence, it will need a territory.