The term "Palestinian territories" is used by mainstream Western journalists as a collective name for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - two territories in Palestine.
The Palestinians seek to found a new nation-state in these non-sovereign areas. They are chiefly Arabs indigenous to the region. Some, mostly pro-Israelis and Zionists, dislike the term Palestinians for them, because they think it connotes the view that Israeli Jews, Druze, Bedouin, non Arab Christians and Muslims, and other residents of the region of Palestine aren't "real Palestinians".
Because nearly all of these nationalists and their sympathizers, as well as the bulk of the United Nations Organization, consider these territories to be under occupation by Israel, they frequently refer to them as the occupied Palestinian territories, or, simply, Occupied Palestine, which has been a term for the area since the earliest days of Partition. This term connotes much more than a definition, but a host of related propositions that amount to a preventive political argument about the disposition and status of the land:
-that these territories are under the military control of a nation that does not have sovereignty over them;
-that the nation in control of these territories, i.e., Israel, is thus obliged (as a matter of right as well as by international law) to return these territories to their rightful owners;
-that these territories belong by right to the Palestinians, i.e., the stateless indigenous Arabs of Palestine.
Used in a more general sense, the term "Palestinian territories" simply refers to areas within the geographic region known from ancient times as "Palestine" (see definitions of Palestine). This usage is rare in modern-times.
The only natural geographic boundaries for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, respectively. The rest of their boundaries were defined as cease-fire lines of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Following the war, West Bank was annexed by Jordan, though the annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom and Pakistan. The Gaza Strip was occupied, but not annexed, by Egypt.
Israel captured these territories in the 1967 Six-Day War; since then they have been under Israeli control. The UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the war, has introduced the "Land for Peace" formula for Israel's normalization with its neighbors.
Since the early 1990s, the Palestine Liberation Organization has negotiated with Israel the creation of a Palestinian autonomy within the territories. These negotiations were later rehashed into a Palestinian demand for the the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on these territories. The Oslo Accords led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority - which includes a Palestinian civil administration in the smaller towns and a security presence in the bigger cities on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Authority lacks full sovereignty, but it does possess an army-like police force.
Although Israeli settlements were not part of the Oslo Accord negotiations, Palestinian Arabs seeking to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip generally argue that the creation and
the presence of Israeli settlements or military forces in those areas is a violation of international law, as affirmed by a majority of members of the Geneva convention: "12. The participating High Contracting Parties call upon the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to refrain from perpetrating any violation of the Convention. They reaffirm the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof. They recall the need to safeguard and guarantee the rights and access of all inhabitants to the Holy Places."
East Jerusalem, captured in 1967, was unilaterally annexed by Israel. This annexation has not been recognized by the international community, although U.S. lawmakers have declared their intention to recognize the annexation. Other states and organizations have condemned this proposal by some United States lawmakers. Because of the question of Jerusalem's status, some states refuse to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and treat Tel Aviv as the de facto capital, basing their diplomatic missions there. Israel claims that these territories are not currently claimed by any other state, and that Israel has the right to control them. In other words, Israel's stance is that while Palestinians do have the right to autonomy (as confirmed by the Oslo Accords), that does not mean they should automatically receive these territories.
Israel's position has not been accepted by most countries and international bodies, at least in their statements. The West Bank, and the Gaza Strip have been referred to as occupied territories (with Israel as the occupying power) by Palestinian Arabs, the rest of the Arab bloc, the UK, the EU, (usually) the USA, both the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and the Israeli Supreme Court .
The international community did not declare any change in the status of the territories as of the creation of the Palestinian Authority between 1993 and 2000. Although a 1999 U.N. document implied that the chance for a change in that status was slim at the period, most observers agreed that the Palestinian territories' classification as occupied was losing substantiality, and would be withdrawn after the signing of a permanent peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
During the period between the 1993 Oslo Accords and the Second Intifada beginning in 2000, Israeli officials claimed that the term "occupation" did not accurately reflect the state of affairs in the territories. During this time, the Palestinian population had a large degree of autonomy and only limited exposure to the IDF. Following the events of the Second Intifada, and in particular, Operation Defensive Shield, most territories outside Palestinian cities (Area B) are under at least some degree of intermittent Israeli military control.
Following the events of the Second Intifada, most of those areas are now once again under effective Israeli military control, so the discussion along those lines is largely moot as of now (autumn 2002).Click here to go back to the Middle East Page!