An Israeli army website has listed the “State of Judea and Samaria” as an option for recruits to list their place of birth, erasing the occupied West Bank.
The website – which belongs to the Meitav military unit that sorts new army recruits – asks new soldiers to fill out an online form before their arrival at the recruitment office. The soldiers are asked to state their mother’s country of birth by selecting from two options: the State of Israel or the State of Judea and Samaria.
Judea and Samaria is Israel’s name for the West Bank, which it has occupied since the Six Day War of 1967.
New recruits complained to the Israeli army about the designation, not because it erased the occupied West Bank and with it the estimated 2.9 million Palestinians living there, but because it implied that “Judea and Samaria” is a separate entity to Israel. One recruit, referred to only as D, told Arutz Sheva that: “It’s so absurd that on an official website operated by the [Israeli army], the distinction between the State of Israel and the State of Judea and Samaria is made, and the regions appear as two separate countries.”
An army spokesman responded to the complaints by saying that “the matter will be examined and treated as soon as possible,” though did not say whether the occupied West Bank would be named as such or whether it would be incorporated into the “State of Israel” option.
There are over 400, 000 Israelis living in illegal settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank, according to figures from Peace Now’s Settlement Watch programme. The Israeli government still considers these people Israeli citizens, meaning youth who live in illegal settlements are still required to serve in the army.
Israel’s illegal settlement of the occupied West Bank has seen a huge increase in recent years, thanks largely to the administration of US President Donald Trump. Earlier this month, it emerged that in 2018 Israel had advanced plans for an additional 5,618 settlement units. In 2017, plans were advanced to build 6,712 new settlement homes, roughly 2.5 times the 2016 level under former US President Barack Obama.
Israeli settlers have also grown increasingly violent, undertaking a series of attacks against Palestinians in recent months. In December, Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din demanded that an investigation be opened into extreme-right-wing Knesset Member (MK) Bezalel Smotrich for social media incitement. Yesh Din asked Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, to open a criminal probe into a tweet in which Smotrich called on illegal Israeli settlers to attack Palestinian vehicles on Route 60, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. That night, scores of Israeli settler youth went to Route 60 to throw stones at passing Palestinian vehicles, forcing them to leave the road in order to avoid further damage or injury.
In October, Israeli settlers attacked and killed Palestinian mother Aisha Al-Rabi as she was driving with her husband near Tapuah Junction (Za’atara), south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The attackers, later revealed to be students at a Jewish seminary located on a nearby illegal settlement, were arrested by Israel’s security agency Shin Bet on suspicion of “grave terrorist offenses, including murder”. However, barely a week later, Shin Bet released all but one of the settlers “after it was decided that the investigation could continue while they were under house arrest”.