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The West Bank

2 December 2016

The West Bank is the largest area that is partially controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Together with the Gaza Strip, it constitutes the Palestinian territory that, according to the two-state solution, should form the state of Palestine. The area is very important to the Jews as it is part of the Biblical area of Judea and Samaria.

Who owns the West Bank?

In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, which had owned and used the region as a military area since 1948. Since then, the Jewish state has made several attempts at peace with Jordan. However, these negotiations have been rejected by the Arab countries.

Israel and the PLO

In 1972, Israel gave the Palestinians permission to hold their own municipal elections. Two years later, Jordanian King Hussein recognized the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) as the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people. He withdrew his claims to the West Bank and Jordan stopped their support for the region. In turn, the PLO declared the independent state of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza. This independence is not recognized by a large majority of the UN member states.

In the 1990s, Israel and the PLO signed a peace agreement, the Oslo Accords. The PLO recognized the Jewish state and Israel promised more self-government to the Palestinians. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority was given limited autonomy in different parts of the West Bank. For this purpose, areas were classified with a special A-, B- or C-status.

Jewish settlements

Jewish settlements in the region are often presented as a modern phenomenon, even though the Jewish presence in this area has existed for thousands of years. Yet the UN Security Council declared the construction of these so-called settlements illegal in 1979.

The United States made a historic decision at the end of 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the West Bank settlements are not inherently illegal under international law.