Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have recently become much more central to the whole Israeli-Arab conflict. Massive loss of land by West Bank Palestinians, and an upsurge in Jewish settlements and in the number of settlers, have attracted international attention to Israeli colonization of Palestine — a phenomenon which dates back to the June 1967 war in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and, before 1982, the Sinai. In Israel proper, this “Judaization” of the land has been a central tenet and practice of Zionism ever since the waves of Jewish immigration began in the late nineteenth century. In the last two years, colonization across the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders) has shown qualitative as well as quantitative changes.
Until the war in Lebanon, official Israeli policy toward the Palestinians under its occupation rested on the premise that the PLO was the only obstacle on the road to what Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir called “the fullest advancement of the process that began in Camp David.”  The elimination of the PLO, according to this logic, would produce Palestinians willing to take part in an Israeli-defined autonomy. Through the so- called Civil Administration, then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had started the process of extirpating “PLO influence in the territories.”
Jonathan Kuttab works as an attorney in Ramallah. He grew up in the West Bank. After finishing college in the US and getting a law degree from the University of Virginia, he returned to the West Bank in 1979. He recently obtained accreditation from the Israeli bar. He works with Law in the Service of Man, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, which analyzes the military orders and legal mechanisms used to implement Israeli policy and documents human rights violations. He spoke with Joe Stork in Baltimore on April 12, 1983.
What is the situation in the West Bank since the Lebanon war?
The issue of settlement has been at the center of the political Zionist movement since its inception. The settlers have played a major role in shaping the political fabric of Israel. Since “the conquest of the land” has been intrinsic to political Zionism, the settlers engaged in that process enjoy a particular leverage in relation to their fellow Zionists. The Zionist “minimalists’ have historically stressed the consolidation of a Jewish state on the territory under their control while the “maximalists” have called for a Greater Israel based on the maximum extent of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms.