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Map of West Bank Settlement, Ariel
Politics and Economy:
Road to the Road Map
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West Bank Settlements

No sooner had Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon publicly vowed to "evacuate unauthorized outposts" in the West Bank at the June 4, 2003 summit — attended by Sharon, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and President Bush — than tens of thousands of Israeli settlers took to the streets in protest. Just as quickly some Palestinian commentators expressed doubt that Sharon's promise would lead to substantive change. At the center of the turmoil lie the Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and Gaza Strip where there are over 200,000 Israelis living among 3.5 million Palestinians on land each claim as their own.

While the settlements have been opposed by many US administrations, Israel has been the largest recipient of US economic and military aid — some $3 billion a year since 1979 aimed at reducing Israelís defense spending burden. NOW with Bill Moyers looks at how Israel has found billions to invest in building settlements. The report follows the trail of American aid and examines Israeli's controversial spending on settlements in the world's most contested land.

The Middle East
The lands in question have changed hands many times down the millenia — and people of three religions — Jewish, Muslim and Christian — all locate some of their holiest places in the area of the West Bank. Jerusalem is one such center of conflict there, the new peace plan refers only vaguely to "a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides."

It was the Six Day War of 1967 which brought the West Bank and Gaza Strip (as well as the Sinai Peninsula since ceded to Egypt) under Israeli control.

Check out the timeline from PBS/

Take the Virtual Tour of Jerusalem from

The West Bank settlements
The fate of the settlements remains a major sticking point in any major peace initiative. The West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, is the land in the concept "land for peace." Just so with the new Road Map for Peace plan discussed at the June 4, 2003 summit, which calls for the immediate dismantling of settlement outposts built since March of 2001, followed by dismantling of other, more established settlements.

Since the 1993 Declaration of Principles, which resulted from the Oslo peace process, there have been several handovers of land to differing degrees of Palestinian civil and security control. The Oslo Peace Accords anticipated the halting of settlement building and the growing removal of settlements. Instead, during the intervening years the number settlers on the West Bank has doubled from about 100,000 to 200,000.

(Read more about the Road Map to Peace, the Saudi plan, the Oslo Peace Accords, and The Mitchell Report and Tenent proposals.)

West Bank major settlements
Israelis themselves are divided over the settlement issue. In late February 2002, a poll in Israel's largest paper, Yediot Aharonot, found majority support for evacuating all settlements in Gaza (57%) and some or all in the West Bank (59%). As tensions rose during the last year, national polls found a growing number of Israelis in favor of "transfer" — the removal of Palestinians from the West Bank. According to a June 2003 survey by Martin Indyk published in the journal FOREIGN AFFAIRS, found "Israeli public-opinion polls consistently show strong majorities in favor of a full settlement freeze and of evacuation of outlying settlements as part of a peace process that provides Israel with security."

Keep up with coverage of the Middle East peace process.

West Bank Settlement Ariel
Last year a study by the group Peace Now, which favors the land for peace concept, found that nearly 80 percent of settlers moved to the West Bank to improve their quality of life. The Israeli government offers financial incentives to settlers, and the cost of living is much cheaper than on the other side of the Green Line in Israel.

NOW Producer Bob Abeshouse has talked with settlers with many motives for living in this contested territory. Last year he talked with the Rubin family, American-born Jews living in the small settlement of Shiloh, located between Ramallah and Nablus, and surrounded by Arab villages. The Rubins located in Shiloh for a mixture of religious and quality of life reasons. This year Abeshouse talked with Lawrence Shafar, who lives in the large settlement of Ariel, and moved for financial reasons. Homer Owen, an evangelical Christian from Waco, Texas, who owns a business in the West Bank town of Ariel and had come to the West Bank because of a firm belief in its role in the Biblical past, and future.

Read more about the Rubins


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