Quick Facts: Israel’s West Bank Settlement Enterprise

June 22, 2020

Note: Under international law, the occupied Palestinian West Bank and adjoining occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem are considered one territorial unit. This fact sheet focuses specifically on the West Bank. In 1980, Israel officially annexed occupied East Jerusalem in a move that has been repeatedly rejected by the UN and rest of the international community as illegal.

Israel’s West Bank Settlements: By the Numbers (June 2020)

Approximately 420,000: Number of Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. (Additionally, there are more than 215,000 Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.) Approximately 11,000 of the settlers in the West Bank are located in the Jordan Valley.

131: Number of official Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, an area smaller than the state of Delaware. There are also approximately 110 so-called settlement “outposts,” or new small settlements built without official approval but with the support and assistance of the Israeli government. Officials settlements include 11 large so-called “blocs” with vastly expanded and largely empty municipal limits, strategically located to sever large Palestinian population centers from one another and divide the West Bank into separate cantons that can be easily controlled. They are: Ma’aleh Adumim (outside of East Jerusalem), Gush Etzion (between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem), Ariel (in the northern West Bank), Samaria, North Samaria, Beitar Illit, Eastern Etzion, Binyamin, Kiryat Sefer, South Hebron Hills, and Jordan Valley.  

More than 1,000: Miles of roads and highways that Israel has built for the use of settlers, and that Palestinians are barred from, on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, carving Palestinian communities into isolated ghettos. (See here for interactive map of West Bank roads reserved for Israelis.)

More than 42%: Amount of the occupied Palestinian West Bank that Israel has reserved for settlements, which is completely off limits to Palestinians.

Approximately 3%: Amount of the occupied Palestinian West Bank covered by built up areas of Israeli settlements.

More than 500: Number of military checkpoints and other obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank as part of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. 

At least 21%: Amount of the land that settlements are built on in the West Bank that Israel seized from Palestinian landowners.

Upwards of 50,000: Acres of land, including farmland and pastures, Israel has appropriated from Palestinians in the West Bank to build settlements. 

60%: Amount of the occupied Palestinian West Bank under total Israeli military and administrative control under the terms of the supposedly temporary Oslo Accords signed in the 1990s. According to the UN: “Most of Area C has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military, at the expense of Palestinian communities. This impedes the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods in Palestinian communities, and has significant consequences for the entire West Bank population.” 

Background on Israeli settlements

  • Settlements are housing units for Jewish Israelis built by Israel’s government on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (and occupied Syrian land in the Golan Heights). Their purpose is to cement Israeli control over these occupied lands and to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The first settlements were established shortly after Israel’s army occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, during the 1967 War, and have been supported by successive Israeli governments of all political stripes ever since.

Status under international law"

What impact do settlements have on Palestinians in the West Bank?

  • Settlements cause severe hardships for Palestinians on a daily basis. Israeli military checkpoints and other obstacles to movement intended to benefit and privilege Jewish settlers are everywhere, making it difficult and dangerous for Palestinians to travel from one place to another to visit family or friends, get to school, work, the doctor, or lead a normal life. Israel’s network of roads and highways for settlers to “bypass” Palestinians on their way to Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders and other settlements that take more Palestinian land and further divide Palestinian communities. Violent settlers frequently attack Palestinians and their property, often while under the protection of Israeli soldiers, who sometimes join the attack (video).