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The War Over the Settlements

Amos Oz, one of Israel's best known writers, claims that the current Palestinian-Israeli war is actually two wars: an "unjust" war against Israel and the Jews to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in an "Arab Palestine," and the Palestinian people's "just" war for an independent state worthy of the name. Conversely, Israel is also fighting two wars: a just war to defend its right to exist, accepted in its integrity and security in the Middle East, and an unjust and futile war to perpetuate its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Jewish settlements located there.

There are about 220,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, excluding the approximately 190,000 people living in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem that extend beyond the pre-1967 border of the old, divided Jerusalem. Despite the intifada , the number of settlers has decreased in only a few of the 144 settlements, and there are over 7,000 settlers in the Gaza Strip alone, in 16 communities occupying 20% of an impoverished land already suffering one of the highest population densities in the world.

Israeli state support for expanding settlements is substantial. In the last ten years, settlements received annual subsidies equal to roughly 920 euros per capita, while the development towns have received 575 euros and Arab communities in Israel 430 euros. State funds finance 50% of housing costs in the settlements, compared to 25% in Israel.

What is the objective of this policy of expansion in the occupied territories? Why have settlements been established even in areas most densely populated by Palestinians? Those territories that were to be used after the 1967 war as bargaining chips in exchange for recognition of Israel and peace are now permanently occupied in order to prevent the formation of a Palestinian state with the sovereignty and territorial continuity necessary for a small but autonomous state. In reality, the territories are an extension of Israeli sovereignty; the army is there to protect the settlers and to assert Israel's de facto sovereignty over them.