Is Israel Taking Advantage of Regional Confusion to Expand Its Territory?
Editor’s note: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Nov. 18 said that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. That pleased Israeli Jews who see the territory as rightfully theirs and infuriated the Palestinians who live there and claim it as their land.
Here, a professor of Israel studies and the author of a new primer on the Israeli-Palestinian confict explains the history of the West Bank settlements – and why they’re so controversial.
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1. Why is ownership of the West Bank so contested?
In May 1967, not a single Israeli lived in the West Bank, a hilly region about the size of Delaware. It was home to roughly a million Palestinians, who had been living under contested Jordanian control for two decades.
Israel conquered the West Bank during the Six-Day War in June 1967. Soon afterwards, Israeli civilians began moving to the region, initially to areas like Kfar Etzion that had been home to Jewish communities before Israel’s founding in 1948.
In 1968, a rabbi named Moshe Levinger and a small group of followers who embraced a messianic version of religious Zionism moved into the ancient city of Hebron, in the heartland of the West Bank. Hebron is a holy city for Jews because it is believed to be the burial place of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
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