International law prohibits the establishment of Israeli communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). And yet, Israeli settlement in the West Bank began almost immediately after it was occupied by Israel. Contrary to the position held by the international community, the Government of Israel views the Israeli settlements built in the OPT with its approval as legal. Successive Israeli governments have initiated, approved, planned and funded settlements in the West Bank, and have introduced a number of financial benefits and incentives to encourage Israelis to move to these settlements. In the mid-1990s, following international pressure, the government decided settlements could no longer be established without official ministerial-level approval.
Over 100 so-called unauthorized outposts have been built since this decision was passed. These outposts are not officially authorized by the Government of Israel, but receive public support from official state authorities in funding, construction, infrastructure and defense.
The Government of Israel undertook halting construction in the West Bank and removing unauthorized outposts on several occasions. In practice, very few outposts were evacuated and those that remain continue to expand. The State previously argued, in response to petitions to the High Court of Justice demanding law enforcement against illegal construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, that it planned to remove the outposts according to a list of priorities it would formulate. However, in 2011 there was a dramatic shift in the State’s position, and the State now declares that it is seeking avenues for retroactively authorizing the unauthorized outposts, including those built on privately owned Palestinian land.
Construction of Israeli settlements and unauthorized outposts in the OPT entailed theft of Palestinian land, on a massive scale, spanning hundreds of thousands of dunams. Israeli settlements and outposts are a major source for severe violations of the human rights of Palestinians living in the West Bank. The harm is multi-dimensional and affects almost every fundamental human right and liberty recognized in human rights law – the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.