A report released by the Human Rights Watch outlined that half a million Israeli settlers living in 237 settlements and companies operating in the West Bank with contribution to “an inherently unlawful and abusive system” violating Palestinian rights, adding that activity should be halted there.
The US based rights group described Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank as an “unlawful confiscation” of Palestinian land and denial of permits to Palestinians.
The report suggested that “Israel’s privileged treatment of settlers extends to virtually every aspect of life in the West Bank,” when giving examples of firms linked to settlements, including cement and real estate companies.
Businesses are “settlers” themselves, drawn to settlements in part by low rents, favorable tax rates, government subsidies and access to cheap Palestinian labour, the report also stated.
The founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, Rome Statute, establishes the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes; including, the crimes of transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into an occupied territory, and the forcible transfer of the population of an occupied territory.
The report touched on the violation of this treaty along with the Hague Regulations of 1907 of which Israel confiscated land, water and other natural resources for the benefit of settlements and its own residents, the regulations prohibit an occupying power from expropriating the resources of occupied territory for its own benefit.
The West Bank was occupied in a Six Day War in 1967 and divided into three zones known as Areas A, B and C by the 1990 Oslo Accords.
Area C, which coincides to more than 70 percent of the West Bank, is under full Israeli military occupation as thousands of Palestinians face discriminatory restrictions.
Violence has largely shifted from the Gaza Strip into the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where over 151 Palestinians have been killed and some 20 Israelis died, pointing at the high number of Palestinian deaths, Sweden’s foreign ministry has called for an independent investigation into whether Israel carried out “extrajudicial killings.”
According to some analysts, Israel’s continuing occupation has been a key reason for the violence.
West bank settlements are illegal under international law and have been a stumbling block in peace efforts, since they are built on Palestinian land.
HRW criticises foreign firms operating in Area C of the West Bank for the benefit of settlements by barring “Palestinians from building or extracting natural resources” from their own land.
A statement on the Palestine-Israel conflict that called on Israel to end its settlement activities as they are “illegal under international law, constitute to an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two state solution impossible,” has been approved by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.
The EU move was rejected by Israel, indicating that a diplomatic row between Israel, the EU and several European countries will continue.