Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Israel / Palestine Map: Who Controls What in 2020?

Who controls Palestine and Israel's claimed territories today (June 30, 2020), just before Israel's planned annexation of parts of the West Bank? Also file under: Palestine controlled area map. Includes bigger West Bank map (Areas A, B, C). Map also includes Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, major cities and Israeli settlements, UN peacekeeper deployments (UNIFIL and UNDOF), no man's land, Golan Heights buffer zone (area of separation, AOS), and Shebaa Farms. Colorblind accessible.
Click to enlarge. Map by Evan Centanni, incorporating base map by Koen Adams of and data from B'Tselem's interactive mapping project. (Contact us for permission to use this map.)

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Israel and Palestine Controlled Areas

Israel's prime minister has been planning to annex (absorb) parts of the Palestine-claimed West Bank into Israel proper today, July 1, though the plans likely won't be completed so soon. So who controls Palestine and Israel's claimed territories right now, before the planned annexation? This detailed new map from PolGeoNow lays out the details of control on the ground. And if you see something you don't understand on the map, check below for our concise outline of the disputed regions and conflict actors involved.

Note that this is a map of who actually controls what, not of who claims which areas. And it's certainly not intended to imply that any one actor should or shouldn't control any particular area - as always, PolGeoNow takes no position on the disputes, and we have done our best to report only the facts.

Flag of Israel Country Name:  
• Israel (English)
Yisra'el (Hebrew)
ʼIsrāʼīl (Arabic)
Full Declared Name:  
• State of Israel (English) 
• Medinat Yisra'el (Hebrew)
Dawlat ʼIsrāʼīl (Arabic)
• Jerusalem (functioning but disputed)

Conflict Actors

The State of Israel

Israel is a United Nations (UN) member country, officially recognized as independent by 164 of the 195 UN member and observer countries (84%). It was founded by Jewish people in 1948 to reclaim their historic homeland and defend themselves against a future replay of the holocaust, which had ended just three years earlier.

It has been part of many conflicts since its foundation, first with neighboring Arab countries and later with organizations representing (non-Jewish) Arab residents of the areas it controls, who have come to be known as Palestinians. Since a war with Jordan, Syria, and Egypt in 1967, Israel has controlled the territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights, whose status continues to be disputed today.

The Palestinian Authority and the State of Palestine

Palestinians fighting to form their own country founded the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, and in 1988 declared independence as the State of Palestine, even though they didn't control any territory at the time. The State of Palestine lays claim to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and is currently recognized as independent by 139 of the 195 UN member and observer countries (71%). It's not a UN member itself, but it is treated as a UN observer country in the same way as Vatican City. The people it represents are mostly Muslims and Christians, but it has no official religion.

Flag of Palestine Claimed Country Name:  
• Palestine (English)
Filasṭīn (Arabic)
Full Declared Name:  
• State of Palestine (English)
• Dawlat Filasṭin (Arabic)
• Jerusalem (claimed; not controlled)
Ramallah (administrative; Fatah faction)
• Gaza City (administrative; Hamas faction)
Since the Oslo Accords were completed in 1995, parts of the West Bank (including most cities) the Gaza Strip have been administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA), a government formed for the Palestinian people by agreement with Israel. The PA is officially separate from the PLO, but has historically been led by the same people. The PA is responsible for internal governance and relations with Israel, while the PLO is responsible for most foreign relations.

However, since a 2006-2007 civil war, the PA's legislature has been non-functioning and its leadership has been divided into two factions that control separate territories.

The political party and former rebel group known as Fatah has held the chair of the PLO since 1969, coming to represent the mainstream of the Palestinian independence movement. Fatah's official ideology involves social democracy and secularism. It supports the idea that Israel and Palestine should exist alongside each other as equal independent countries, in what's known as a "two-state solution".

But despite its historical dominance of the PLO, Fatah lost its majority in the PA legislature to Hamas in a 2005 election, and the two parties have been locked in political stalemate ever since. And since the civil war that followed, Fatah's leadership has governed the PA's West Bank territories by decree, while being mostly shut out of the Gaza Strip.

Formed as a Palestinian anti-Israel rebel group in 1987, Hamas is known for its extra-hardline stance against Israel, claiming the whole region for the Palestinians and refusing to officially accept that Israel is a country. Unlike Fatah, Hamas's ideology is based around a conservative interpretation of Islam, the majority religion of the Palestinians. It has not accepted the Oslo Accords, and because of its continued support for attacks on civilian targets in Israel, it's categorized as a terrorist group by Israel and some foreign countries.

Since the 2006-2007 civil war, Hamas has been the sole government of the Gaza Strip, and has been shut out of politics in the West Bank.

United Nations Peacekeeping Forces

UN peacekeepers aren't directly involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but they have been deployed to help maintain ceasefires between Israel and its neighboring countries of Lebanon and Syria. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has patrolled southern Lebanon in various capacities since 1978, now in cooperation with the Lebanese military.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has maintained a buffer zone between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights since 1974, though it now reluctantly shares parts of the zone with the Syrian military, which entered two years ago to drive out Syrian rebels who occupied parts of the zone during the Syrian Civil War.

Neither of these two UN peacekeeping forces patrols any areas claimed as part of Israel or Palestine, except maybe some tiny disputed areas along the unofficially-marked border with Lebanon.

Territorial Zones

The justifications for creating countries of Israel and Palestine both go back to a UN plan adopted in 1947 to divide the area into a Jewish country and an Arab country. At that time, the whole area was known as Palestine (before the term "Palestinians" came to mean only Arabs), and had been under temporary UK control since the WWI defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. 

However, the UN plan was never formally implemented, and the proposed borders ended up being replaced with a somewhat different set of ceasefire lines after a 1947-1949 war between supporters of Jewish independence and neighboring Arab countries. Another war in 1967 left Israel in control of the whole area, as well as the Golan Heights, which up to then had been part of Syria.

Waters and Airspace

When we said that the above map shows territorial control "on the ground", we meant that literally. All airspace claimed for either Israel or Palestine is currently controlled by Israel, including the skies over territories that are otherwise governed by the Palestinian Authority.

Similarly, Israel exercises authority in all waters not claimed by other countries, including the West Bank's chunk of the Dead Sea as well as the parts of the Mediterranean Sea that might be considered territorial seas or exclusive economic zone of the Gaza Strip. Although Israel does allow some Palestinian fishing activities within a zone adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and may not maintain a consistent military presence within that zone, it does strictly control how far out fishing boats are allowed to go, and frequently changes the maximum allowed distance.

Israel Proper

The area on the Israeli side of the pre-1967 ceasefire lines (shown as dotted white lines on our map) is accepted as part of Israel by almost everyone who accepts that Israel should exist at all. In other words, that means the area of the Israel/Palestine territory excluding the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights.

In Israeli law, the country of Israel technically only includes this part plus the East Jerusalem area, which Israel controversially absorbed after capturing it from Jordan in 1967 (see below). Israel also applies all of its laws to the part of the Golan Heights it controls (see below as well), but the 1981 law that established that situation technically avoided saying that the Golan Heights was "part of Israel".

The Palestinian Territories

The areas Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt during the 1967 war - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - are no longer claimed by those countries. However, they are now claimed by the self-declared State of Palestine, which along with the UN calls them the "occupied Palestinian territories". Israel officially considers their status to be unresolved, arguing that it has just as much right to claim them as the Palestinians do. Except for East Jerusalem, Israeli law does not consider the Palestinian territories to be technically part of Israel (at least so far). People born in these territories do not have Israeli citizenship unless they're eligible for some other reason (like having an Israeli parent).

The West Bank

The "West Bank", named for being on the west side of the Jordan River, refers to the area east of the 1949 ceasefire lines with the country of Jordan, taking into account some small modifications that were agreed to between 1949 and 1967. The area was controlled by Jordan before the 1967 war, but that country eventually gave up its claim to the territory after making peace with Israel.

The PLO, the UN, and many of the world's countries consider East Jerusalem to be part of the West Bank, but Israel does not (see below). The Israeli government sometimes refers to the the rest of the West Bank as the Judea and Samaria Area.

Starting from 1995, the Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three main control zones:

Area A
In this zone, which includes almost all Palestinian-majority cities in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority was given full control over both civilian administration and security. Originally, Israeli military forces weren't allowed to enter, but since an upsurge of violence in the early 2000s, which they considered to be in violation of the Accords, Israel has sometimes launched military missions into Area A (but has not continuously occupied any part of it).

Area B
In this zone, the Palestinian Authority is still the only civilian administration, but control of security is shared between the PA and Israel.

Area C
In the rest of the West Bank, the Oslo Accords specified that the Israeli military would continue ruling by decree as it previously had in the whole territory other than East Jerusalem. The idea was that this would be temporary, until details could be hammered out for Israel to accept the State of Palestine as a country and hand over control of the whole thing.

However, since then the negotiation process has stagnated, and Israeli governments have allowed Jewish-Israeli settlers to set up many new towns within Area C. Many of these towns are subject to laws identical to those in Israel proper, though technically the laws are applied by military decree, not by virtue of the towns being part of Israel proper. The towns labeled on our map as under Israeli military control are all "settlements" of this kind. There are Palestinian villages in Area C as well, but none of them are as big as the largest Israeli settlements.

Areas H1 and H2
The city of Hebron was originally intended to be part of Area A, but because there was a large number of Jewish settlers living in the eastern part of the city, the Israeli government didn't want to put that part under full Palestinian control. The agreement that was eventually reached divided the city into two zones: H1 would be under full Palestinian control (similar to Area A), while H2 would be patrolled by Israeli security forces, with the PA only allowed to exercise civilian administration of Palestinians (most similar to Area C).

The Gaza Strip

A small but densely-populated piece of territory captured by Israel from Egypt in 1967 is known as the Gaza Strip, after its largest city, Gaza. Egypt no longer lays claim to the strip, but the PLO does consider it part of the State of Palestine. While the Gaza Strip was once divided between Palestinian and Israeli control like the West Bank, Israel pulled out in 2005, leaving it under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction.

The 2006-2007 civil war between Palestinian factions was fought in the Gaza Strip, with Hamas ending up in control of the whole territory. Because Hamas refuses to accept Israel's existence or end attacks against Israeli targets, and Israel considers it to be a terrorist group, Israel and now-ally Egypt have maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip ever since, strictly controlling who and what crosses its boundaries, and sometimes even closing all entrances and exits completely.

Although the Gaza Strip is almost entirely under Hamas governance, the Israeli military does currently control a 100-300 meter wide buffer zone within the territory, along the boundary with Israel proper.

East Jerusalem

Both Israel and the PLO consider the city of Jerusalem to be their own national capital, though with Jerusalem under full Israeli control since 1967, the Palestinian Authority government is currently based in Ramallah. After capturing the West Bank from Jordan, Israel expanded the city limits of its Jerusalem municipality to include not only the eastern part of the city center (including the historic Old City), but also a large area of the city's eastern suburbs.

Israel has treated this area, now all known as East Jerusalem, as being within its borders ever since then. Although no law was ever passed explicitly saying that the territory was being added to Israel, Israeli courts have ruled that it is indeed considered part of Israel under the country's laws (that is, it has been "annexed" to Israel). However, the PLO still considers East Jerusalem to be rightfully part of Palestine, and most of the world's countries agree that it's part of the disputed West Bank in principle.

See Also: Is Jerusalem the Capital of Israel or Not?

"No Man's Land"

There's a strip of territory along the western edge of the West Bank that was controlled by neither Israel nor Jordan from 1949 to 1967, giving it the name "no man's land". Since 1967, it's been controlled by Israel, which doesn't treat it as part of the West Bank, and the Israeli town of Maccabim has been established within it.

This has led to accusations that Israel has basically annexed the territory, absorbing it into Israel proper. However, Israeli courts have ruled that it's not technically part of Israel, and that only some Israeli laws apply there. Many other countries also consider it Israeli-occupied territory of unresolved status, just like the West Bank, or even go all the way and call it Palestinian territory.

There are also some small pieces of former "no man's land" within Jerusalem (not clearly pictured on map), but they're now treated as part of East Jerusalem, and treated as part of Israel under Israeli law.

The Golan Heights

Israel's third large disputed territory, the Golan Heights, is not claimed as part of Palestine and not considered part of the Palestinian territories. Instead, the Syrian government claims the Golan Heights as part of Syria, since it was indeed part of that country until Israel captured it in the 1967 war. And unlike Jordan and Egypt, Syria has still never signed any peace agreement with Israel.

A buffer zone patrolled by UN peacekeepers separates the Syrian and Israeli-controlled sides of the Golan, though the Syrian army is now present within the zone too as part of the Syrian Civil War. But everything west of the buffer zone has been essentially absorbed into Israel since 1981 legislation extended all Israeli laws into the territory. However, the law didn't actually say the area was becoming part of Israel, so some argue that it's technically be outside the country ("not annexed").

Some areas at the western edge of the Golan Heights were designated as demilitarized zones along the hostile Israeli-Syrian border from 1949 to 1967, leaving their current status a little bit unclear. The map attached to the 1981 law, for its part, seems to imply they were already part of Israel.

Shebaa Farms

A small slice of land on the northern side of the Golan Heights, known as Shebaa Farms, is sometimes claimed to be part of Lebanon. But Israel and Syria both treat it as part of their own claimed territory in the Golan Heights.

Interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict? To see more coverage, view all Israel or Palestine articles on PolGeoNow.