West Bank

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The West Bank is a region between Israel and the Jordan River, including the northwest quadrant of the Dead Sea. When Jordan annexed the region in 1949, they gave it its present name.

Its boundaries are the result of the 1949 Armistice Agreement which followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Formerly part of the British Mandate of Palestine, it was controlled by Jordan from 1949 to 1967. Israel gained control of the territory in the Six-Day War and has held it (critics say "occupied" it) to the present (see occupied Palestinian territories).

It is currently controlled by Israel and mostly inhabited by Palestinians and Israelis (see Israeli settlements).

Cities in the West Bank

The most densely populated part of the region is a mountainous spine, running north-south, where the cities of Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem (Arabic: al-Quds), Bethlehem, and Hebron are located. Jenin, in the extreme north of the West Bank is on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley, Qalqilya and Tulkarm are in the low foothills adjacent to the Israeli coastal plain, and Jericho is situated near the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea. Maale Adumim (about 6 km east of Jerusalem) and Ariel (between Nablus and Ramallah) are the largest Jewish towns in the region.


Origin of Name

Most of the territory's eastern border is the western bank the Jordan River, hence the name "West Bank" often used as the territory's name.

Political terminology

Israelis refer to the region either as a unit -- "The West Bank" ("ha-Gada ha-Ma'aravit") -- or as two units -- Judea ("Yehuda") and Samaria ("Shomron"), after the two biblical kingdoms, (the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern Kingdom of Israel -- the capital of which was, for a time, in the town of Samaria). The border between Judea and Sumaria is a belt of territory immediately north of Jerusalem) sometimes called the "land of Benjamin".

The Arab world and especially the Palestinians strongly object to the terms Judea and Samaria, the use of which they deem to reflect Israeli expansionist aims. Instead, they refer to the area as "the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River", emphasizing that the area is under Israeli military control and jurisdiction (see "occupied Palestinian territories").


The West Bank has been the object of negotiation, terrorism and war.

The status of the West Bank, together with the Gaza Strip on the Mediterreanean shore, has long been disputed, though almost everyone agrees that the area is heading for statehood (see proposals for a Palestinian state).

The United Nations calls the West Bank and Gaza Strip "Israeli-occupied" (see Occupied territories for discussion of what "occupied" means). The US generally agrees with this formulation, although some senior officials (Kirkpatrick, Rumsfeld) have occasionally demurred.

Generally, the Arab World considers the West Bank the rightful property of its Palestinian residents and regards the Israeli presence as an occupation force. Supporters of this view commonly refer to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as the "occupied territories." The vast majority of Palestinians also feel that the West Bank ought to be a part of their sovereign nation, and that the presence of Israeli military forces is a violation of that sovereignty.

Many official Arab maps show the West Bank, Gaza, and the rest of the territory bounded by Egypt, the Jordan River, Syria, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea as "Palestine", reflecting a non-recognition of Israel as a state. However, Saudi Arabia recently offered a total recognition of Israel by the Arab world if Israel completely withdraws from the West Bank and Gaza.

This is much too oversimplified. Israeli opinion is split into those who advocate, variously:

  • Complete withdrawal from the West Bank in hopes of ending Arab attacks on Israel (sometimes called the "land for peace" position).
  • Maintenance a military presence in the West Bank to reduce Palestinian terrorism by deterrence or by armed intervention, while relinquishing some degree of political control.
  • Annexation of the West Bank and assimilation of the Palestinian population to full-fledged Israeli citizens.
  • Annexation of the West Bank and transfer of part or all of the Palestinian population. (This is an extremist view, held by few).


Main article: History of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

A part of the pre-1948 Mandatory Palestine, the territories now known as West Bank were mostly part of the territory reserved by the Partition Plan (UN General Assembly Resolution 181) for an Arab state. According to the plan, the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding towns (including Bethlehem and Ramallah) would be an internationally adminsitered territory, whose future would be determined at a later date. While a Palestinian Arab state failed to materialize, the territory was captured by the neighboring kingdom of Jordan. This occupation was not recognized by the UN or by the international community.

The boundary line between Israel proper and the West Bank was determined by the cease-fire talks in and is often called the "Green Line". During the 1950s, there was a signiciant phenomenon of Palestinian refugee infiltration through the Green Line. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured this territory, but the U.N. did not recognize it either and asked for Israel's withdrawal in Resolution 242. In 1988, Jordan withdrew all claims to it.

The 1993 Oslo accords declared the final status of the West Bank to be a subject to a forthcoming settlement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Following the accords, Israel withdrew its military rule from some parts of West Bank, which was then split into:

  • Palestine-controlled, Palestinian-administered land(Area A)
  • Israeli-controlled, but Palestinian-administred land (Area B)
  • Israeli-controlled, Israeli-adminstered land (Area C)

Areas B and C constitute the majority of the territory, made up out of the rural areas, while urban areas per se are mostly Area A.

Israel has been criticized for construction of numerous settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law. See Israeli settlements for a discussion of this question.

Transport and Communication

The West Bank has 4,500 km of roads, of which 2,700 km are paved. The Israelis have developed many highways to service their settlements. It also has three paved airports. There are no railways.

The Israeli company Bezeq and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for communication services in the West Bank. The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation broadcasts from an AM station in Ramallah on 675 kHz; numerous local, private stations are reported to be in operation. Most Palestinian households have a radio, and many have a TV, but there are no figures available.

See also Palestine.

External links


  • Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "West Bank" August 20,