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West Bank

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West Bank

The West Bank (Arabic: الضفة الغربية‎, al-diffä l-Ġarbīyä, Hebrew: הגדה המערבית‎, Hagadah Hamaaravit) is the area west of the Jordan river that was occupied by Transjordan since 1949. The name "West Bank" was devised by Transjordanian and British diplomats following World War II, when Jordan contemplated annexing a portion of the Palestinian Arab state that was to be created when the British vacated Palestine, and later envisioned by the UN when it partitioned the Palestine Mandate into Jewish and Arab states (See Partition Resolution). Following Israeli territorial gains during the 1948 Arab-Israel war, about 2,200 square miles were left in the territory of the West Bank. Currently about 2.4 million Arab Palestinians, including a significant number of refugees of the 1948 Arab Israel War, live in the West Bank, along with about 250,000 Israeli settlers.

The area is currently officially under Israeli occupation or "administration" with partially autonomous government of the Palestinian National Authority.  It incorporates part of the areas known since ancient times as Judea and Samaria.  "Judea and Samaria" as a unit is the name officially given to the West Bank in Israel, but the ancient areas of Judea and Samaria in fact overlapped into current portions of Israel. The name is  used by the Israeli government and military communiques, and by media outlets and politicians associated with Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the mainland Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, it shares a border with Jordan. The West Bank also includes a significant coast line along the western bank of the Dead Sea and part of the Dead Sea may be included in its territory. Since 1967, the West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation.

Prior to the First World War, all of the area known to Europeans as Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire.  In the 1920 San Remo conference, the victorious Allies  allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War saw the establishment of Israel in parts of the former Mandate, while the West Bank was captured and annexed by Jordan, which destroyed any existing Jewish villages. The 1949 Armistice Agreements defined its interim boundary. From 1948 until 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule, and Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to the area until 1988. Jordan's claim was not recognized by most other countries. The West Bank was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War. Most of the residents are Arabs, although large numbers of Israeli settlements have been built in the region. Most of the Arab portions of the West Bank are administered by the Palestinian National Authority.

The West Bank has an anomalous international status, since Jordan's occupation was never recognized as legitimate by most countries, and Jordan relinquished its territorial claims. The area is not occupied under the strict definition of international law, since it is not territory of another sovereign, but most countries consider that Israeli rule there constitutes occupation. Israeli courts apply most aspects of international law regarding occupation to cases where it is relevant. The West Bank is legally distinct from the area of Jerusalem, which the UN declared to be an internationalized Corpus Separatum in 1947.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:  History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict    Palestine

  Map of Palestine History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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West Bank