West Bank

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West Bank,

territory, formerly part of PalestinePalestine
, historic region on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, at various times comprising parts of modern Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (recognized internationally by nations as independent Palestine), Jordan, and Egypt; also known as the Holy Land.
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, after 1949 administered by Jordan, since 1967 largely occupied by Israel (2005 est. pop. 2,386,000), 2,165 sq mi (5,607 sq km), west of the Jordan River, incorporating the northwest quadrant of the Dead Sea. Since mid-1994 limited Palestinian self-rule has existed in portions of the West Bank under the Palestinian AuthorityPalestinian Authority
(PA) or Palestinian National Authority,
interim self-government body responsible for areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Palestinian control.
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 (PA). Israelis who regard the area as Jewish territory often refer to it by the biblical names of JudaeaJudaea
or Judea
[Lat. from Judah], region, Greco-Roman name for S Palestine. It varied in size in different periods. In the time of Jesus it was both part of the province of Syria and a kingdom ruled by the Herods.
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 and SamariaSamaria
, city, ancient Palestine, on a hill NW of modern-day Nablus (Shechem). The site is now occupied by a village, Sabastiyah (West Bank). Samaria (named for Shemer, who owned the land) was built by King Omri as the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the early 9th
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. The largest and most historically important cities are HebronHebron,
Arab. Al-Khalil, city (2003 est. pop. 155,000), the West Bank. Hebron is situated at an altitude of 3,000 ft (910 m) in a region where grapes, cereal grains, and vegetables are grown.
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, NablusNablus
, Heb. Shechem, city (2003 est. pop. 127,000), the West Bank. It is the market center for a region where wheat and olives are grown and sheep and goats are grazed. Manufactures include soap made from olive oil and colorful shepherds' coats.
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, BethlehemBethlehem
[Heb.,=house of bread or house of Lahm, a goddess], Arab. Bayt Lahm, town (2003 est. pop. 28,000), in the West Bank. It is traditionally considered the birthplace of Jesus and is one of the world's great shrines.
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, and JerichoJericho
[Heb.,=fragrant, or city of the moon god], Arab. Ariha, town (2003 est. pop. 19,000), West Bank, in the Jordan valley N of the Dead Sea; nearby is the site of the ancient city of Jericho.
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. East JerusalemJerusalem
, Heb. Yerushalayim, Arab. Al Quds, city (1994 pop. 578,800), capital of Israel. It is situated on a ridge 2,500 ft (760 m) high that lies west of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.
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 is regarded as part of the West Bank by Arabs; however, Israel has incorporated it into the larger Jerusalem economy and municipality. In addition to the Palestinian population, some 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem or other West Bank territories that Israel has annexed to Jersusalem.

People and Economy

About 75% of the population of the West Bank consists of Sunni Muslim Palestinian Arabs, many of whom live in large, impoverished refugee camps; 17% are Jewish Israelis living in government-subsidized settlements; and the rest are mainly Christian Palestinian Arabs. Arabic, Hebrew, and English are spoken. The land in the N West Bank is fertile, and olives, citrus and other fruits, vegetables, beef, and dairy products are produced. Family businesses and small-scale industries manufacture such goods as architectural limestone, textiles, and handicrafts, although investment capital is paltry. The area is also dependent on work in neighboring Israel for employment. Real economic development has been stagnated by a lack of resources and often set back by the Arab-Israeli violence arising out of the occupation and in response to Palestinian attacks in Israel; Israeli control of roughly 50% of the region's land and over roads and other key segments of the infrastructure also has been an impediment to development of the Palestinian economy.


The West Bank was declared part of Jordanian territory after Israel and Jordan signed armistice agreements in 1949. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli WarArab-Israeli Wars,
conflicts in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973–74, and 1982 between Israel and the Arab states. Tensions between Israel and the Arabs have been complicated and heightened by the political, strategic, and economic interests in the area of the great powers.
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, the area remained under Israeli occupation. Conflicts with Arab residents there grew in the late 1970s as Israeli Jewish settlers, encouraged by the BeginBegin, Menachem
, 1913–92, Zionist leader and Israeli prime minister (1977–83), b. Russia. He became (1938) leader of a Zionist youth movement in Poland, where he also earned a law degree.
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 administration, began a series of large-scale housing developments. Although the Camp David accordsCamp David accords,
popular name for the peace treaty forged in 1978 between Israel and Egypt at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. The official agreement was signed on Mar. 26, 1979, in Washington, D.C.
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 (1978) incorporated plans for Arab self-rule in the West Bank, this goal remained elusive.

Israel's incursion into Lebanon in 1982 to destroy Palestinian armed bases exacerbated rioting and political turmoil in the West Bank. Israel responded with military curfews and increased Israeli troop presence. The development of the IntifadaIntifada
[Arab.,=uprising, shaking off], the Palestinian uprising during the late 1980s and early 90s in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas that had been occupied by Israel since 1967. A vehicular accident that killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in Dec.
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 (Palestinian uprising), which began in the Gaza StripGaza Strip
, (2007 pop. 1,416,543) rectangular coastal area, c.140 sq mi (370 sq km), SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea adjoining Egypt and Israel, in what was formerly SW Palestine, now officially administered by the Palestinian Authority.
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 in 1987, embroiled the West Bank in outbreaks of stone-throwing, protests, and violent attacks and led to Israeli reprisals, resulting in hundreds of Palestinian deaths, property damage, high unemployment, and reduced living standards. The 1991 Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.


First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
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 created further economic hardship as Palestinian workers returned en masse from the war zone.

Rioting and clashes with Israeli troops continued into the 1990s. An accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation OrganizationPalestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), coordinating council for Palestinian organizations, founded (1964) by Egypt and the Arab League and initially controlled by Egypt.
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 (PLO), reached in 1993 after secret negotiations, led to the establishment of the PA and limited self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in mid-1994. Agreements providing for a transfer of control to Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jericho and the Gaza Strip, and then in the other West Bank cities and towns (except East Jerusalem), were finalized in 1994 and 1995 and largely implemented by early 1996. In Mar., 1996, Israel sealed off many towns in the West Bank following a series of suicide bombings inside Israel. Most of Hebron was handed over to the Palestinians in 1997 and, in a 1998 accord, Israel agreed to withdraw from additional West Bank territory. Although progress was slow, this was accomplished by Mar., 2000. Any chance of further progress was stymied by a new cycle of violence that began in the fall after Ariel SharonSharon, Ariel
, 1928–2014, Israeli general and politician, b. Kfar Malal as Ariel Scheinerman. As a teenager he joined the Haganah, the underground Zionist military brigade, and took his Hebrew name from the Sharon Plain, where he worked in 1947.
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 visited the Haram esh-Sherif (or Temple Mount) in Jerusalem.

Israel's construction of a security barrier in the West Bank became an international issue in 2003. It was begun in 2002 in the N West Bank, where it paralleled the border, and around Jerusalem, but its planned extension south and into the West Bank to protect Israeli settlements brought widespread condemnation because of West Bank territory it would enclosed and the many Palestinians whose lives would be disrupted. An International Court of Justice opinion (2004), requested by the UN General Assembly, termed barrier illegal, in part because it enclosed Palestinian territory. Israeli court decisions several times ordered the wall partially rerouted because of the hardship it would cause.

Mahmoud AbbasAbbas, Mahmoud
, 1935–, Palestinian leader, also known as Abu Mazen. He was born in Saffed, Palestine (now in Israel), but his family fled during the 1948–49 Arab-Israeli conflict and lived in Syria. Educated at Damascus Univ.
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 was elected president in 2005 after Arafat's death. He and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon subsequently agreed to a truce, and in Mar., 2005, Israeli forces began handing over control of Jericho and other West Bank towns to the PA. Subsequent violence, however, halted and reversed the process. A few Israeli settlements in the N West Bank were evacuated in 2005 in conjunction with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but the number of Israeli settlers continued to increase. By mid-2009, Israel had eased its control over a number of towns while not restoring full PA control. That same year Israel halted new settlement construction for ten months while negotiations occurred; construction subsequently resumed. Following the firebombing of a Palestinian home in July, 2015, a series of clashes and of attacks against Israelis erupted in the West Bank and Israel.

West Bank

the. a semi-autonomous Palestinian region in the Middle East on the W bank of the River Jordan, comprising the hills of Judaea and Samaria and part of Jerusalem: formerly part of Palestine (the entity created by the League of Nations in 1922 and operating until 1948): became part of Jordan after the ceasefire of 1949: occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In 1993 a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization provided for the West Bank to become a self-governing Palestinian area; a new Palestinian National Authority assumed control of parts of the territory in 1994--95, but subsequent talks broke down and Israel reoccupied much of this in 2001--02. Pop.: 2 421 491 (2004 est.). Area: 5879 sq. km (2270 sq. miles)
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