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The West Bank and Gaza have been occupied by Israel since 1967, and are collectively known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). Before the 1967 war, the West Bank was part of Jordan whilst Gaza was part of Egypt.

Following the beginning of the occupation in 1967, many Israelis moved into purpose-built Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza (though the settlements in Gaza were demolished by the Israeli Government in 2005, and the settlers forcibly evacuated). When the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B and C in the mid-1990s, areas containing Jewish settlements were generally classed as Area C, and hence remained under Israeli control.

The UN Security Council in December adopted resolution 2334 which states settlements have ‘no legal validity’:

  1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
  2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.

The UK Government voted in favour of the resolution. In the weeks since the Resolution the Israeli Government has announced plans to construct several thousand new settlement homes. The Foreign Office has condemned “the increased pace of settlement activity” and says such action makes a two-state solution “much harder to achieve.”

The Government has also condemned demolitions of Palestinian buildings which the Israeli authorities say lack building permits. Data collected by UN OCHA suggests that Israel demolished or seized over 1,000 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2016, the highest number since recording began in 2009.

Benjamin Netanyahu met Prime Minister Theresa May in London on 6 February 2017 where they discussed the establishment of a new UK-Israel Trade Working Group, Iran and the Middle East Peace Process.

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