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Extra!: West Bank

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CNN Student News -- Use this explainer to help students understand the history of the West Bank and why it has been at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Background

  • The West Bank lies between Israel and Jordan.
  • The territory covers 2,270 square miles - an area slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Delaware.
  • Israelis often refer to the northern West Bank region by its biblical name of Samaria.
  • Palestinians have insisted that their state should include all of the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the war of 1967- territory that includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many Israelis disagree, saying that Israel's security needs require a presence in strategic parts of the West Bank and that some of the Jewish settlements built during the years of occupation should be incorporated into Israel.
  • Brief Timeline

  • 1200's B.C. - Israelites settle in the West Bank. Philistines settle there at about the same time. Later, at various times, the area was ruled by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Romans.
  • A.D. 600's - Arab Muslim armies conquer the West Bank. The territory is part of a series of Muslim empires almost continuously from then until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, during World War I.
  • 1920 - After World War I, the West Bank becomes part of the British mandate of Palestine. According to the mandate, the United Kingdom is to help Jews in Palestine establish a Jewish homeland.
  • 1947 - The UN votes to divide the mandate into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The Palestinian Arabs reject this plan.
  • May 1948 - The Palestinians' Arab allies attack Israel, the day after that country is established as a Jewish state. Jordan occupies the West Bank when the war ends in 1949.
  • 1950 -- Jordan annexes the West Bank.
  • 1967 - Israel defeats Jordan, Egypt and Syria in the Six-Day War and captures the West Bank. Also captured are the Arab lands of Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. Jews from Israel began building settlements in the West Bank soon afterward.
  • 1972 - Israel begins allowing West Bank Palestinians to elect and operate municipal and village government councils.
  • 1974 - King Hussein of Jordan turns over his government's responsibility for the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
  • 1988 - Jordan ends financial and administrative support to the West Bank. The PLO declares an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • 1993 - Israel and the PLO sign several agreements that lead to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from portions of the West Bank and from Gaza.
  • January 1996 - Palestinians in the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank and in Gaza elect a legislature and a president for these areas.
  • 2002 - Israel reoccupies most West Bank cities from which it had previously withdrawn. That same year, Israel begins constructing a barrier designed to separate most of the West Bank from Israel.
  • October 26, 2004 - The Israeli parliament, in a historic decision, votes to support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull Israeli troops and settlements out of Gaza and a tiny portion of the West Bank.
  • August 15, 2005 - Israel is expected to begin withdrawing thousands of citizens from settlements in Gaza and the northern West Bank.
  • Details of the disengagement plan

  • The "disengagement plan" would evacuate four Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
  • Six blocks of Jewish settlements in the West Bank would remain under Israeli control: Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Maaleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Ariel and Gush Etzion. Together, the six blocks of settlements have a population of around 92,500.
  • The plan would "enable Palestinian territorial contiguity [the sharing of a border] in the area of northern Samaria [aka the West Bank]."
  • The disengagement plan also states, "In Judea and Samaria, some areas will remain part of the state of Israel, among them civilian settlements, military zones and places where Israel has additional interests."
  • Israel agrees to improve the transportation infrastructure in the West Bank "with the aim of enabling Palestinian transportation contiguity [network] in Judea and Samaria," making "Palestinian economic and commercial activity easier" in the area.
  • The plan would not halt the building of the controversial Israeli "security fence," which juts into portions of the West Bank.
  • Perspectives

  • Israeli -- Israel's settler community, which numbers some 200,000 in the West Bank, and its conservative and religious supporters see the territory as part of the biblical land of Israel, and they have vowed to resist giving up control. Israelis see the settlements as essential to their country's security, standing as a first line of defense from the east. The Gaza settlements, while also flash points in the conflict, are less populated, and the land does not carry as much biblical significance for the Israelis.
  • Palestinian -- Palestinians are suspicious of any attempts to maintain an Israeli presence in the territories occupied in 1967. The territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority is dispersed and intersected by 144 Israeli civilian and military installations, diminishing the Palestinian administration's control. Palestinians see the settlements as instruments of the ongoing occupation and think that they will divide any future Palestinian state into separate sections.
  • (Source: CNN Library)

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