This BBC News video with Paul Wood aired on the BBC September 7th gives a good summary of situation.
There are approximately 500,000 Israelis living on settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. All settlements are illegal according to international law and no country, with the exception of Micronesia and Israel itself, view it otherwise.
Israel does not recognize the West Bank and east J’lem as occupied, but the majority of the international community, including the United States continue to hold both the territories as occupied and should be afforded the protections under the Geneva Conventions and other international bodies of law.
Under international law, an occupying power cannot transfer it’s population into territory it is occupying or change the demography unless it is for the benefit of the population being temporarily occupied. Some say that the Israeli gov’t (GOI) is not transferring it’s population; the population is voluntarily moving there so this argument is mute. This is disingenuous though as east J’lem and the West Bank are considered occupied territory and the GOI provides infrastructure and military support for the settlements to exist. Without government subsidies, support and encouragement, the settlements would not exist, nor would the growth continue at such a rate.
Although the current U.S. position supported by President Obama calling for a freeze on settlement expansion including so-called ‘natural growth’ is considered ‘unreasonable’ by some, it actually doesn’t go far enough.
The GOI has been changing the demography and encouraging settlement of east J’lem and the West Bank for over 40 years against international law. Obama is simply asking Israel to cease illegal activity. The GOI should not only halt construction, but begin implementing removal of all illegal settlers from occupied territory since all settlements and outposts are illegal, including those in east J’lem and compensate those Palestinians displaced or forced from their homes due to home demolitions or evictions.