Reprinted from Palestine Chronicle
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law.
Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.
B'Tselem's report titled "The Ofra Settlement - An Unauthorized Outpost" shows that Israel reneged on its agreement because Ofra is illegal under local and international law.
Called a flagship settlement, it was established in 1975 by the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement that began seizing West Bank land for itself - modestly at first in abandoned Jordanian Ein Yabrud army camp houses. Then later, more aggressively after the Rabin government recognized it as a community even though 58% of its area lies on land registered to Palestinians in Israel's Land Registry. Settlement construction there is forbidden. Yet in 1977 under Menachem Begin, recognition became official.
Ofra set a precedent. As the first northern West Bank settlement, it broke "the barrier that blocked settlement attempts in the heart of the Palestinian population" and established events on the ground for dozens more to follow - illegal settlements and outposts "in opposition to the stated official position of the government," on paper only to be defiled and ignored.
Some Background on Gush Emunim
Under the slogan, "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel," Gush Emunim (GE) emerged in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but Israel's 1967 Six-Day war victory inspired its adherents to believe that all biblical Israel for Jews alone was now in reach.
Today, GE is an influential, extremist pressure group - fundamentalist, radical, messianic, militant, terrorist, and undemocratic, yet supported by all Israeli governments. Ofra gave it a footprint, a toehold, an entry for Israel to establish 130 West Bank settlements and other outposts, now home to half a million Jews on confiscated Palestinian land.
From Ofra to Colonizing the Entire West Bank for a Greater Israel
In their book, "Lords of the Land: The War over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories," Israeli authors Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar described the beginning as follows:
"Ofra...., which was established in trickery and on false pretexts, flourished into the heart of the Israeli consensus because of its respectable appearance, the settler's flagship institutions that were established there, and the mellifluous discourse of some of its better-known inhabitants."
Respectability, however, hid its dark side. Besides lying on registered Palestinian land, the area's borders weren't defined. A community plan was never approved, and required building permits were never issued for construction. As a result, Ofra is now the largest unauthorized West Bank outpost, yet it continues to exist. It has 2700 residents in well-established northern and southern neighborhoods with extensive community services, including three schools, a day-care center, several kindergartens, a Society for the Protection of Nature field school, women's religious schools, various public institutions, businesses, and light industry.
It's registered as a cooperative society, a legal entity offering many advantages. Their private, not public bodies. Their documents and files aren't open to the public, and they can restrict membership solely to others as ideologically committed as themselves.