Israeli defiance

Half a million Jews live in settlement blocs and smaller outposts built in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

In depth


 Focus: Outcry over demolition plan

 
Q&A: Jewish settlements
 Riz Khan: The battle over Israeli settlements
 Inside Story: US and Israel poles apart

The World Court has ruled all the settlements illegal and Barack Obama, the US president, has pressed Israel to halt all settlement activities as part of a bid to revive peace talks under which the Palestinians would gain independence alongside the Jewish state.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has refused to declare a settlement freeze, which could spark a backlash within his rightist coalition government, many of whose members see the West Bank as a Jewish biblical birthright.

Successive Israeli governments have vowed to keep settlement blocs under any peace deal.

"The settlement expansion is a continuation of the Israeli policy that destroys the efforts being exerted, especially by President Obama," Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said.