July/August 2000

The Fate Of Settlement In Judea, Samaria, And Gaza (YESHA) Upon Declaration Of The Palestinian State

Arieh Stav

The following paper is the introduction to a study of the Palestinian Authority's preparations for war against the Jewish settlements with the intention of destroying them - this, after the establishment of the Palestinian state on September 13 or close to that date. This introduction surveys the political, legal, and economic issues that will arise with the establishment of a sovereign Arab entity in which about 200,000 Jewish settlers will be trapped. The study will be published in its entirety on 20 August.


With the expected declaration of the Palestinian state, on September 13 this year, the state of Israel will undergo a basic change in status. This change will have a decisive effect on the fate of the settlers of Yesha (Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). The Israeli government's silence on the matter is rooted in its inability to cope with the situation and its intention, therefore, to mislead the settlers, for reasons that will be clarified below.

The silence of the Knesset opposition stems in part from a lack of correct understanding of the situation and in part from acquiescence in the reality. The irresolution of the Yesha Council, which also stems from lack of understanding of the situation, reflects internal disarray, the desire to minimize the damage, and the attempt to prevent panic among the public.

The only one who openly speaks the truth is Arafat, who constantly proclaims the "expulsion of all settler-criminals from our land" (most recently in the Fateh conference in Gaza; see the report on Palestinian Authority television of June 18, 2000).

Therefore, we at the Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR) saw it as incumbent on us to present to the settlement sector the options that face it upon the establishment of the Palestinian state, in all their severity. At the same time, we avoided the sort of horrifying scenarios that the heads of Fateh and Arafat's cronies disseminate regarding the destruction of the "Zionist colonies" and so on, although, in light of the objectives of the three commando battalions that are training in Ramallah and the nature of the Palestinian Authority's military preparations even now, atrocities cannot be ruled out. In this paper we preferred to analyze the political developments associated with the imminent establishment of a sovereign Palestinian entity.

The document below presents a prognostication based on an analysis of Israel's current political situation. It must be kept in mind that even if one agreement or another between Israel and the Palestinians is signed, the value of the Arab signature, if it is not backed by the power of enforcement on Israel's part, is nil. The Arabs have violated and continue to violate daily most of the stipulations of the Oslo agreements, yet Israel continues to accede to their demands one after another. To accelerate the process of Israeli surrender, the Arabs use threats of war or acts of terror. The question of whether Israel has the capacity to enforce the implementation of the agreement is a secondary issue for our purposes. The fact remains that Israel has tolerated continual Arab violations without any effective response. Therefore, one must beware the trap of agreements that serve wishful thinking and self-deception. And one must bear in mind Shimon Peres' assertion that "the number of agreements that have been signed in the Middle East by the Arabs is exactly the same as the number of agreements that have been violated."

The Fate of Settlement According to the Oslo Agreements

The fate of Yesha is stipulated in the "Oslo agreements", which define the Palestinian Authority's geographic scope as encompassing all of the territories of Yesha (see item 4 of the agreement).

  • Jurisdiction of the [Palestinian] Council will cover West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period.

The elaboration of this item states that the issues of Jerusalem, settlements, and military bases will be discussed in the "final settlement". One need not be exceptionally intelligent to understand that in any "final settlement" (which the Arabs regularly refer to as the "final solution") the settlements will turn into islands within a sovereign Arab authority.

To remove any doubt about the matter, it is already stipulated in the Oslo agreement that the borders of the Palestinian entity will be determined according to UN Resolution 242. As is evident from its withdrawal to the international border with Egypt and with Jordan and its readiness to withdraw even beyond the armistice lines in setting its border with Syria, the Israeli government has accepted, de facto if not de jure, the Arab interpretation of this resolution. These precedents also will be applied to the borders with the Palestinian state - not only because that is what is clearly written in the Oslo agreements, but also because Israel has neither the desire nor the political capacity to cope with the annexation of territories in Yesha. The entire international community demands that Israel withdrawal to the borders of June 4, 1967, the Arab world with Arafat as its vanguard poses this as a condition and threatens war, and much of the Israeli Left that is now in power also supports the Arab demand.

Thus, at one point or another Israel will find itself back at the pre-Six Day War borders. The talks on this issue with the Palestinian Authority are nothing but a smokescreen for this process, which essentially amounts to preparing the public for "difficult and painful decisions" (Yitzhak Rabin). Indeed, since the talks on the Oslo agreements began, Israel has been in constant retreat. What was presented last night as a red line is crossed by tomorrow, what yesterday appeared as a national catastrophe quickly changes, by brainwashing, into a national consensus. And on and on. The Jordan Valley, as the line of defense to the east, was supposed to remain in Israel's hands no matter what; the Jordan Valley has been abandoned. Jerusalem was supposed to remain undivided; yet its de facto division is proceeding daily, and in a short time this division will receive official authorization. The Golan Heights, first in their entirety, then in part, and finally only the outposts on the Hermon (the most vital intelligence outposts of the state), were supposed to remain in Israel's hands no matter what; yet Israel governments have relinquished everything, and the discussion now deals only with sovereignty over the northeastern shore of the Kinneret.

An identical process of rapid erosion is occurring in Judea and Samaria: thus, the Samarian mountains were supposed to be a strategic asset that shields the coastal plain, and hence to remain under IDF control (the Alon Plan) under any circumstances. Yet the mountain spine was long ago handed over to Arab control, and likewise the Trans-Samaria Highway, "strategic road no. 1 in Israel" and the main transportation artery for troops and weapons in the event of a war to the east, has been relinquished.

With the anticipated announcement of the establishment of a Palestinian state on September 13, a basic change will occur in the status of the "Palestinian Authority", as it moves from the unclear and controversial status of an "Authority" to a status well defined in international law, that of a sovereign entity. Since the declaration will include all of the territories up to the Green Line, and since the entire world will recognize the Palestinian state according to these borders (including, most probably, the Israeli government), Israel will become a violator of international law (and the Fourth Geneva Convention), since its army and armed civilians will be within the territory of a sovereign state, an unacceptable situation.

Indeed, sovereignty entails the physical control of territory, and Israel, whose army will hold parts of the territories of the Palestinian state, will be able to claim that Palestinian sovereignty over Yesha is therefore incomplete. Such a formal claim, however, will be devoid of value, since Israel will not have the means (or will) to enforce it and thereby run the risk of sanctions by the international community and war with the Arab world.

Settlement in Yesha and the Fourth Geneva Convention

The Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War was established by the international community in 1949 in response to the crimes of the Nazis in the Second World War. The Convention sets forth a long list of prohibitions that apply to the occupier (torture, collective punishment, expulsion), the infraction of which is defined as "a crime against humanity". However, the gravest prohibition - and it is the raison d'etre of the Convention - is against the occupying aggressor's settlement of its population in the occupied territories. The Germans, of course, in the framework of the Nazi principle of Lebensraum, settled many territories that they occupied with German population. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, a state that violates this prohibition is defined as a "criminal state" and its settlers as "war criminals" who are liable to severe sanctions.

Since 1997, Egypt (the leader of the Arab states in this regard) has sought to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel so as to designate it a criminal state. In fact, the UN General Assembly has passed a number of anti-Israeli resolutions on this matter. In February 1999, under pressure by the Egyptian ambassador, the Assembly passed a resolution calling for a special session of the UN Human Rights Committee, a body that enjoys great prestige and includes fifty-three states, to discuss Israel's violations of the Convention.

And indeed, on April 27, 1999, in its annual meeting in Geneva, the Human Rights Committee adopted a resolution calling for the self-determination of the Palestinian people on the basis of UN Resolution 181 of November 1947 (the Partition Resolution), and demanding that Israel (under threat of sanctions) honor UN Resolution 194 of December 1948 on the '48 refugees' right of return to their homes.

It is noteworthy that the delegitimization of Israel within the borders of June 4, 1967, came hand in hand with the demand - most likely ultimate - for the return of the '48 refugees to their homes within the Green Line. The Barak government has already, of course, in the framework of a "gesture to the Palestinians", agreed to absorb some of the refugees (on the humanitarian basis of family unification) within the borders of the state of Israel.

The Status of the Settlements upon the Declaration of the Palestinian State

So long as the status of the territories of Yesha was in doubt within the framework of the "peace process", Israel adhered to its claim of nonsovereignty, and hence was not unequivocally demanded to remove its army and population from these territories since such a demand could only have come from a sovereign entity. That, however, is what the Palestinian state will be as of September 13, 2000.

The demand by the government of the Palestinian state that Israel withdraw its army and citizens from its sovereign territory will be an ultimate one, since it will be anchored in international law and will receive the sweeping support of the international community. Furthermore, as a member of the Arab League the Palestinian state will receive the automatic backing of all twenty-one states of the League with Egypt at the head, all of them having signed an agreement on military cooperation against Israel. (It should be recalled that Egypt at Camp David did not disassociate itself from the defense alliance of the states of the League, which renders its agreement with Israel empty verbiage since the alliance takes precedence over the agreement with Israel.)

There can be no doubt that under heavy international pressure on the one hand and, on the other, the threat of war, to be accompanied, as the heads of the Palestinian Authority routinely proclaim, by an "armed uprising" (i.e., attempts at massacres by the Palestinian army), Israel will hasten to withdraw its army from the territories of Yesha. However, while a hurried retreat by the IDF on the precedent of Nablus (1995) and Lebanon (2000) can be executed on short warning, that is not true of 200,000 settlers.

After the IDF's expulsion, the settlements will be abandoned to Arafat's rule. Among a list of scenarios, including the destruction of isolated settlements, we choose here two of the less grave options, on the ground that they enjoy the backing of international law as noted above.

  1. The Disarming of Settlements and Individuals

    It is completely unacceptable that armed citizens of a foreign state, who in any case are defined as "war criminals" and as an infraction of the Fourth Geneva Convention, should exist within the territory of another sovereign entity. Hence the collection of weapons, both from the settlements' armories and from individuals, would be an entirely legal act, and accordingly will be carried out. In this state of affairs the settlements will have no capacity for self-defense, instead being subject to the mercies of the authorities of the Palestinian state.

  2. The Cutting Off of Infrastructure

    All of the infrastructure except for cellular telephones (and cellular communication, too, can be blocked), such as water, sewage, electricity, and access roads, will be within the sovereign territory and under the control of the Palestinian state, and will be cut off (whether permanently or haphazardly) so as to impel the residents to leave. One should also note here additional concerns such as food supply, transportation to school, health clinics, ambulance services, and so on.

To repeat, so long as wide-scale massacres are not carried out, the illegal status of the settlements and the designation of their residents as "war criminals" will justify the cutting off of infrastructure as a sanction that is imposed on violators of the law. This will provide the Israeli government (any government) with a convenient pretext for its failure to intervene on its citizens' behalf. In this situation, however, a further question will confront Israel, namely: will it in fact be able to use the IDF to defend its citizens trapped in the Palestinian state?

IDF Intervention: Is It Possible?

Military intervention on Israel's part, that is, a military invasion of a sovereign state, would amount to a declaration of war. Considering that at this point the Palestinian state will enjoy the military backing of the states of the League with Egypt and Syria at the helm, what this means is large-scale war. Taking into account the inferiority in military balance from which Israel suffers vis-a-vis its enemies, and the geostrategic circumstances, it is hardly conceivable that Israel would incur an existential risk for the sake of "settlers".

Compensation Payments

The cost of civilian and military withdrawal from the Golan Heights has been estimated in sums of $30-$58 billion. Of this the civilian part, that is, the evacuation of 17,000 settlers, has been estimated at $15-$17 billion. Since these sums, which amount to half of Israel's gross national product, are well beyond its capacity, the finance minister, Avraham Shohat, has requested them from the U.S. government. However, it is not the president who decides on the provision of sums of such magnitude but, rather, Congress. The attempt to present these sums before the Congress in Washington was not only completely rebuffed but aroused great anger about Israeli chutzpah (a considerable portion of the members of Congress and the Senate regard Israel's readiness to hand over the Golan Heights to Damascus, and the territories of Yesha to Arafat, as contrary to American interests in the Middle East). There is, then, no external party that is prepared to finance Israel's withdrawal from the Golan, let alone the evacuation of the population of Yesha, which is twelve times larger than that of the Golan. The two sums that are required to compensate a population of over 200,000 persons add up to approximately Israel's annual gross national product. The payment of even part of this total would cause an economic crisis incomparably graver than the one that occurred in the early 1980s, which brought inflation in the hundreds of percentage points, with the evacuation of the Sinai, the loss of oil, the buildings of alternative airfields, and the payment of compensation to the evacuees.

Financial Compensation to the '48 Refugees in Exchange for Settlements

One of the issues discussed for a number of years among the Israeli "peace camp", and recently between the Barak government and the Palestinian Authority, is that of financial compensation to the Arab refugees from the 1948 War for Independence. The flooding of the state of Israel with millions of refugees, as stipulated by UN Resolution 194, which enjoins Israel to return the refugees to their homes, will bring about the end of the Jewish state. One of the alternatives being considered is the payment of compensation. The cheapest way to do this, economically speaking, is to hand the settlements over to the government of Palestine. An assessment that was done on this issue asserts that the settlements' infrastructure and houses together are capable of absorbing half a million refugees. With such a measure (which will probably be called a "humanitarian gesture" by Israel to the Palestinians) Israel hopes to ward off the threat of the implementation of UN Resolution 194. The fact that this hope has no basis, and will only lead to an escalation in the Arabs' demands, as experience proves, is secondary to our concerns. One way or another, the Israeli government will portray this matter to the public as a historic achievement of rectifying past injustices on the way to the longed-for reconciliation with the Arab world.

The Abandonment of Settlement in Yesha: A Requisite of Reality

The abandonment of the population in Yesha, in addition to being a political imperative against which Israel stands impotent, is thus also an economic imperative. To these two ingredients must be added the delegitimization of "the settlers, the destroyers of the peace process".

The above facts explain the Israeli government's inaction on the issue of the Yesha settlers. For a year and a half Arafat has been declaring his intention to establish a state that will extend to the Green Line. Although the date originally was set for May 2000, it was postponed, and the final date is apparently the 13th of September. In this time span the Israeli government, that of Barak and that of Netanyahu, could have given flesh and blood to the plan regarding those "blocks of settlement" about which there is ostensibly a national consensus, by annexing the territories in question to Israel - for our purposes, in Gush Etzion or in the territorial square formed by Karnei Shomron-Kedumim-Ariel-Shaarei Tikvah. The latter is an area of about 400 square kilometers where there is a Jewish majority, that shields the soft underbelly of the Greater Tel Aviv area, and that no Israeli government has ceased to refer to as the minimum that is necessary to offset the vulnerability of Israel's "narrow waist" and so on. However, not only has nothing been done in this regard but, de facto if not de jure, the area has already been transferred (except for the IDF bases and the settlements) to Palestinian sovereignty, its designation as Area C being obviously fraudulent.

Since the Barak government and its predecessor were and are well aware of their readiness to withdraw to the Green Line, they have had sufficient time to deal with the issue of compensation. And yet, for reasons cited above, nothing was done. This inaction well served the deception of the settlers: it instilled in them a faith that they would not be expelled, so that they did not consider organizing themselves to demand compensation.

If, at this point, an organization is formed at the last minute, the government will present the huge sums needed for compensation as a prescription for economic collapse. Thus the residents will be portrayed to the Israeli public as a band of swindlers seeking to get rich on the back of peace. The campaign of incitement, which has already begun in the press, is meant to divert public awareness from the settlers' existential distress to "extreme right-wing organizations", "the crazed settlers", "the underground", and so on. Agents provocateurs such as Avishai Raviv and organizations such as Eyal most likely have already been planted at the behest of the Prime Minister's Office. This time, however, in contrast to 1995, the precedent of the Rabin assassination will render the settlers ineffectual. Thus on one side; and on the other, repudiation by the public and by the political parties that are supposedly close to the settlers.

Is There Indeed Political Support from the "National Camp"?

One of the illusions that have recently taken hold among the settlers is that the "national camp" in the Knesset stands behind them. The term "national camp" generally applies to the Likud, the National Religious Party, and the National Union (including Yisrael Beiteinu). The latter's parliamentary power is, however, marginal, leaving only the other two. Because, as a member of the coalition, the National Religious Party provided backing for the policies of the Barak government, its responsibility for the destruction, God forbid, of settlement in Yesha is not only no less than that of One Israel or Meretz but clearly greater.

Any expectation of national responsibility from the Likud is self-deception. It was the Begin government that established the historical precedent in the annals of Zionism of destroying Jewish settlements. It was Ariel Sharon, today's head of the Likud, who personally supervised the razing of the Sinai settlements; it was Yitzhak Shamir who led Israel to the Madrid Conference, which paved the way to the Oslo agreements; it was Binyamin Netanyahu who in the Wye agreements provided territorial continuity to the Palestinian state (something Yitzhak Rabin shied away from doing). As if all this were not enough, the Likud today is a fragmented and impotent, and any attempt to rely on this broken reed is nothing but wishful thinking.

The Yesha Council

The Yesha Council is a body made up of an excellent group of people, dedicated, with historical prerogatives, and most of all, of personal integrity. This stands in pronounced contrast to the pervasive corruption on the bureaucratic level in municipal and political institutions in Israel.

At the same time, this group lacks qualities of political leadership, let alone spiritual or ideological authority. Its political grasp is limited, and it lacks a database, research, and long-range strategic assessment. It also lacks a basic capacity to consider issues objectively because of conflicting interests between different settlements and its complete dependency on government budgets.

Hence, if in normal times this is an efficient body mainly devoted to the building and expansion of settlements, then in days of existential distress, when the property, well-being, and lives of the residents of Yesha are in question, the tragic weakness of the members of this Council is exposed.

For at least seven years, since the signing of the Oslo agreements, the fate of settlement in Yesha has been clearly foreseeable. If this Council had been blessed with outstanding leadership, it would have been organized in good time for the struggles ahead. Undoubtedly, a population of tens of thousands that is united by an existential threat to its property and life can be a powerful source of activism. Nothing, however, was done. Inaction gave individuals the illusory impression of "business as usual". The withholding of information, even when certainly not done with malicious intent, is tantamount to deception. And if today the large population of Yesha settlers is living in a Garden of Eden of fools, the responsibility for this rests first and foremost with the Yesha Council.


Presumably, the reader of this document finds it hard to believe that a process of such a critical nature, which may bring personal tragedy to 200,000 people, ethnic cleansing, economic devastation to tens of thousands of households, and existential danger, has become part of the daily agenda of the Israeli government with no remedies even having been proposed.

Indeed, whoever is unfamiliar with the decision-making process of Israeli governments may well be surprised. It must be borne in mind, however, that the political capitulation known as the "peace process" has been conducted entirely without prior preparation or long-range planning. It is all a matter of shooting from the hip, bringing in its course the collapse of one red line after another, the handing over of national assets, the loss of strategic strongholds, the relinquishment of water sources, the abandonment of allies, and the signing of treaties with a terrorist organization that, as a proxy of the Arab world, has not ceased day and night to proclaim its determination to wipe out the Jewish state.

What Is to Be Done?

The Ariel Center for Policy Research, as its name indicates, is dedicated to investigation, the creation of databases, and to analyzing and presenting its findings to the public and to decision-makers. Activities in the field, however, need to be carried out by the bodies responsible for them, that being their role and their specialty.

And yet, as pointed out, these bodies, from the Israeli government to the IDF command to the Yesha Council, have been doing nothing or practically nothing. The resident of Yesha must grasp and internalize the fact that the fate of himself, his family members, and his property is about to be entrusted to the worst of Israel's enemies. It makes no difference whether this has been done out of malice, folly, incompetence, or a combination of the three. In any case the fate of the residents of Yesha as a group, and the fate of each individual by himself, is in their own hands alone.



Moshe Shamir, Dr. Martin Sherman, Prof. Ezra Sohar and Arieh Stav

This paper represents the views of the above-signed alone and does not necessarily express the opinions of all members of the Ariel Center for Policy Research.

Ariel Center for Policy Research
P.O.B. 830
Shaarei Tikva 44810 ISRAEL
Tel: 972-3-906-3920 Fax: 972-3-906-3905
E-mail: info@acpr.org.il

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