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Settlements: Glossary of Terms

Bush Letter / Understandings: President George Bush in 2004 handed a letter to then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, which said that "in light of new realities on the ground" in the West Bank, "including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Sharon interpreted this clause in Bush's letter as a US endorsement of Israeli plans to retain certain "settlement blocs." This interpretation ignores the next sentence of the letter, which stated that "It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities." In addition, some Israeli officials, as well as some former Bush Administration officials, assert that Bush gave secret assurances to Israel agreeing to Israeli construction inside settlement blocs and within built-up areas of settlements. Other Bush Administration officials have argued that any such understandings were informal and non-binding on future administrations.

Bypass Roads: Beginning in the 1970s, with the birth and emboldening of the settlement movement, Israel gradually created a new transportation grid in the West Bank. The purpose of much of the new road system is to "bypass" Palestinian towns and villages, connecting Israeli settlements to each other and to the Israeli transportation grid inside the Green Line. Many of these roads are thus referred to as "bypass roads." Bypass roads cater to the interests of Israeli settlers who, even before the outbreak of the Intifada, wanted to be able to commute to Israel and through the West Bank easily and safely, and without having to encounter Palestinians. Bypass roads have also been seen as a way of making settlements more attractive to prospective residents.

Cave of the Patriarchs (aka Tomb of the Patriarchs or Cave of the Machpelah): A holy site for Jews, Muslims and Christians, located in the modern-day city of Hebron in the West Bank. The site is recognized as the burial place of Abraham and his wife Sarah as well as a number of other patriarchs and matriarchs that are revered in all three of the Abrahamic faith traditions.

Checkpoints/Roadblocks: In an effort to curtail attacks against Israeli targets, the Israeli military has over the years established checkpoints and roadblocks inside the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel. These obstacles severely restrict the freedom of movement and access for Palestinians within the West Bank, and block Palestinians from crossing into Israel or into areas located east of Israel's West Bank barrier. Palestinians view such roadblocks and checkpoints as collective punishment. Israel has for years been under tremendous pressure to remove checkpoints inside the West Bank and in recent years has removed many of them. The UN organization OCHA closely monitors and tracks these checkpoints and roadblocks.

Disengagement Plan: In August of 2005, under the leadership of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, abandoning all of the settlements there and removing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from inside Gaza. In addition, Israel withdrew from four small settlements in the northern West Bank. Some of the settlers left voluntarily, accepting government compensation, while others refused to leave, causing them to be forcibly removed by the IDF. Calls for the withdrawal to be conducted in the context of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority were rejected by the Israeli government. Settlers have since returned repeatedly to the site of the West Bank settlements that were evacuated.

E-1: E-1 is short for "East 1", the administrative name given to the stretch of land in the West Bank located northeast of Jerusalem and to the west of the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim. When people talk about E-1 today, they are referring to a longstanding Israeli plan - as yet un-implemented - to build a large new Israeli settlement in this area. Construction of E-1 is highly controversial because it would effectively cut the West Bank in half, severing any north-south contiguity in a future Palestinian state. In addition, it would sever access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians in the West Bank, making a peace agreement that creates a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem all but impossible.

"Final Status Issues"(aka "permanent status issues"): These are issues that under to the Oslo Accords, Israel and the PLO agreed to resolve in final status negotiations. The final status issues are: settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security arrangements, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and "other issues of common interest." As part of the Accords, the sides agreed that "the outcome of the permanent status negotiations should not be prejudiced or preempted by agreements reached for the interim period."

Green Line: Also known as "1949 Armistice lines" or "1949 borders," this line was set as part of an agreement to end hostilities between Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt after the 1948 War of Independence. It served as Israel's border with the West Bank from 1948 to 1967.

Golan Heights: Conquered by Israel from Syria in 1967, this mountainous territory is the focus of efforts to achieve Israeli-Syrian peace. While Israel has annexed the territory and extended Israeli sovereignty to it, the international community still considers it to be Syrian territory occupied by Israel.

Haram al-Sharif: Arabic term, translating as "Noble Sanctuary," referring to the area known to Jews as the Temple Mount. The Haram al-Sharif includes the Dome of the Rock, which is the site which Muslims believe contains the stone from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, and the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Hilltop Youth: This term refers to young settlers, of the generation born in the settlements, who view themselves as the activist vanguard of the settlers. They have taken a leading role in setting up outposts, in disobeying the IDF, and in using radical, and sometimes violent, tactics. Many of the hilltop youth distinguish themselves from the traditional settler leadership by their rejection of the authority of the state of Israel in favor of loyalty to religious teachings that support Jewish claims to all of the West Bank and support their extremist, sometimes violent activity (like the Price Tag movement).

Ideological Settlers: This term refers to Israelis who chose to live in settlements for ideological reasons - nationalist, religious, or a combination of the two. Such settlers typically live deep inside the West Bank.

Incentives for Settlers: Since the outset of the West Bank settlement enterprise, settlements and settlers have enjoyed extraordinary financial and material support from successive Israeli governments, as compared to Israeli cities and towns inside the Green Line. While many of the most blatant subsidies and benefits have diminished over the years, an examination by Peace Now of the 2009-2010 Israel budget shows that settlements receive nearly 1 billion shekels above and beyond the funding that townships within Israel receive.

Loan Guarantees: In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush linked the provision of $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Israel with a freeze in Israeli spending on settlements. As part of the terms of the guarantees, the US said it would reduce the guarantees annually by the same amount Israel was estimated to have spent on settlements (non-security expenditures only). This policy reflected Bush's frustration with Israeli settlement policy, and his recognition that settlements were so detrimental to U.S. interests as to justify using an extraordinary assistance package as leverage to convince Israel to change its policy. The loan guarantee battle generated a great deal of debate in Israel, but had no discernible impact on Israeli settlement policy. Moreover, the original amount of the guarantees was so large, and the reductions taken by the US so small, that they never had any effect on Israel (at the end of the life of the loan guarantee program, Israel had still not used up all the available guarantees, even with the reductions). Subsequent loan guarantees provided to Israel by the US have included the same requirement that funds not be used for settlements.

Mughrabi Gate: The Mughrabi Gate is the entrance to the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif that is accessible from the Jewish Quarter (opening onto the Wailing Wall plaza). In 2004 the gate suffered structural damage due to environmental impacts (mainly weather) and plans were begun for its renovation, These plans generated serious controversy, with Palestinians and Jordanians (who under the Israel-Jordan peace treaty are the authority regarding such matters) demanding a simple repair and return to status quo ante. Israel, on the other hand, unveiled far-reaching plans to expand the gate, creating additional prayer space beneath it and creating access for large crowds of tourists and, if necessary, security personnel. As of this writing the subject remains mired in controversy.

"Natural Growth": Natural growth refers to the claim settlers and some Israeli officials make that settlements must be allowed to expand in order to provide housing for a population that is growing naturally - people having babies and needing bigger houses, children growing up and wanting homes of their own, elderly parents having to move nearer to their children, or the construction of public structures (e.g. schools, synagogues, clinics) to serve a growing population This argument ignores the fact that such "natural" growth accounts for only a small percentage of the growth in settlements. It also ignores the fact that elsewhere in Israel - and the world - there is not a "right" for people to live in any particular neighborhood or town: when families grow or kids get married, finances and the real estate situation often cause people to move further away than they might like from where they have lived in the past. It should also be noted that according to the Roadmap Israel is obligated to freeze all settlement activity, "including natural growth of settlements".

Oslo Accords: The commonly-used term to refer to the September 13, 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The official title of the agreement is the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. The first negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the Oslo Accords created the Palestinian Authority and established a framework that was supposed to end the conflict in five years. The document does not explicitly mention a Palestinian state. The Oslo Accords remains the legal foundation of the current Israeli relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the PLO and the anchor of current peace efforts.

Price Tag: "Price Tag" is a strategy employed by radical settlers, including the Hilltop Youth, to dissuade Israeli authorities from evacuating or freezing outposts by creating fear of the high cost of settler retaliation. Specific tactics have included attacking Palestinians and their mosques, homes, and crops, and attacking IDF personnel and Israeli police.

"Quality-of-Life" Settlers: This term refers to Israelis who move to settlements primarily for economic reasons rather than religious or political reasons. Such economic benefits generally reflect the massive Israeli government incentives for settlers that have over the years been provided to entice Israelis to move to settlements. These have included subsidized mortgages, special transportation and education benefits, and tax breaks. Quality-of-life settlers generally live in settlements located close to the Green Line or with easy access to Israel via dedicated roads.

Roadmap for Middle East Peace: The Roadmap for Middle East Peace is a plan to implement a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was released in April 2003 by the "Quartet" (the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia) and subsequently agreed to by the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Israel attached some 14 "reservations" to its acceptance of the Roadmap, but these have no binding or legal status). This plan laid out three phases to be completed by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other actors in a set timeline and was originally supposed to be completed by 2005. Among other things, the Roadmap called for reform in Palestinian governance and security infrastructure. It also required Israel to freeze settlements and remove many settlement outposts.

Sasson Report: Under intense pressure from the international community to take action regarding settlement outposts, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, named former Justice Ministry attorney Talia Sasson to investigate the issue. In 2005 she presented Sharon with the Sasson Report. Among its findings, the Sasson Report detailed extensive covert state support for the establishment and construction of illegal outposts.

Settlements: Settlements are Israeli communities established after 1967 in territories that Israel conquered in the Six Day War.

Settlement Outposts: In the mid-1990's the government of Israel declared that as a matter of policy, no new settlements would be established. Since this declaration, around 100 new settlements and proto-settlements have been established informally and in a manner inconsistent with Israeli law. These settlements have become known as "outposts."

Settlement Bloc: "Settlement bloc" is an informal term, having no legal definition or standing, either under Israeli or international law. It generally refers to areas where settlements have been established in relatively close proximity to one another and relatively close (as a cluster) to the Green Line, although the definition of the blocs continually expands to include more land and settlements located further inside the West Bank. The blocs and the settlements they contain are not recognized by the Palestinians or the international community as having any special status compared to other settlements.

Shepherd's Hotel: Shepherd's Hotel has gained notoriety of late because it is the target of a major East Jerusalem settlement plan. Located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, north of the Old City, this site was the headquarters the Mufti of Jerusalem in the early 20th century. After Israel gained control of East Jerusalem in 1967, the site was used as a police station, but at some point it was purchased from the Israeli government by Irving Moskowitz, a leading financier of East Jerusalem settlement activity. In March 2010, permits were issued for the construction of 20 residential units on the site. If the plan is carried out, it will create new settlement in East Jerusalem, representing the first settlement construction in this neighborhood since 1967. It will also be a settler foothold in this area, linking up with ongoing settler plans targeting other sections of Sheikh Jarrah. Settlement plans for the Shepherd Hotel were proposed during the Bush administration but were shelved after meeting with sharp criticism from the United States.

Temple Mount: The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Located in the southeast corner of Jerusalem's Old City, it is the site on which the two Jewish Temples once stood, and is also believed by Jews to be the location of Abraham's binding of Isaac. It is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

Ultra-Orthodox settlers: This term refers to the large number of ultra-Orthodox Jews who have moved into the West Bank for the sole reason that the government of Israel has provided housing for them there. The largest settlements today are ultra-Orthodox settlements located along the Green Line.

Wailing Wall: The Wailing Wall is the western wall of the Temple Mount compound. It is a holy site to Jews, most of whom believe that Jewish law forbids them from ascending the Temple Mount.

West Bank Barrier: In 2002, in response to a spate of violent attacks inside Israel by Palestinian terrorists, Israel began construction of a barrier in the West Bank. In some areas the barrier follows the Green Line, but in others it dips deep into the West Bank, meaning the de facto Israeli annexation of 55 Israeli settlements and large swaths of West Bank territory. While its planners insist that the route of the barrier reflects solely Israeli security considerations, the route of the barrier has been challenged in Israel's Supreme Court, both on the grounds that it inflicts disproportionate suffering on Palestinians and on the grounds that it has been gerrymandered to accommodate settlements and settlement expansion plans. In response, Israel's Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered parts of the route of the barrier altered. The barrier is referred to by some as a "wall" and by others as a "fence." In reality it is both: parts of the barrier are composed of high cement walls, while others are composed of fences, ditches, security roads, and other arrangements.

Yesha Council: The Yesha Council is the colloquial name for the Council of Settlements of the West Bank and Gaza - YESHA is an acronym for the Hebrew names of these areas (Yehuda, Shomron, and Azza). The council was founded in the late 1970s with the primary goal of strengthening and increasing the Jewish presence in Israeli territories. In recent years, and particularly following Israel's disengagement from Gaza, it has been criticized by younger settlers, including those associated with the Hill Top Youth Hilltop Youth and the Price Tag movement, as too conservative and insufficiently militant and confrontational.