Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Summary: Almost every major media outlet refers to the Gaza Strip and the west bank of the Jordan River as “Palestinian Territories”, when in fact, those areas are actually “Israeli territories” and “Palestinian Authority Territories.”

Most places in the world are part-and-parcel of a country.  However, there are situations when a place is administered by a government which has not incorporated the land and assumed full sovereignty.

The United States of America historically had several large territories as the country expanded, including Alaska and Hawaii.  Today, the USA continues to have several territories including:

  • Puerto Rico
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • American Samoa

These territories have some rights and protections of the US government, but not others such as the right to vote.

Israeli Territories and
Palestinian Authority Territories
1995 to Present

It is easy and obvious to understand that there are no “Palestinian Territories”, because there is no such thing as the State of Palestine (as of this writing, in any event).  Most of the area east of the Green Line (EGL/ west bank of the Jordan River, WBJR), is controlled and administered by Israel.

Under the Oslo Accords, EGL was divided into three parts: Areas A, B and C. Area A was handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and it has complete control of that land.  Area C is “Israeli Territory” and is completely controlled by Israel. Area B is a hybrid, which is under the civil administration of the Palestinian Authority, but security control of Israel.

Breakdown of Areas A, B and C on the west bank of the Jordan River.

Gaza would ostensibly be called “Palestinian Authority Territory”, however, the PA has no control in the area.  The governing party is Hamas, which won elections in 2006 and routed any PA personnel from the region in 2007.  Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Israeli Territories
1967 to 1995

The Oslo Accords between the State of Israel and the PLO started the process of breaking the Israeli territories into areas with local Palestinian Arab control.  Before the Oslo Accords, all of Gaza and EGL/ west bank of the Jordan River (WBJR) were only Israeli territories.

Israel took control of Gaza from Egypt in June 1967 during the Six Day War.  Egypt had amassed a large army and announced its intention of attacking Israel, so Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and seized Gaza.  In response to Israel’s preemptive attack on Egypt, Jordan attacked Israel from the EGL/WBJR. Jordan lost the region and gave up all claims to the land in 1988.

Jordan and Egyptian Territory
1949 to 1967

In May 1948, the Palestinian Arabs and five Arabs armies attacked Israel as it declared independence from Great Britain. At the end of the war in 1949, Jordan assumed control of much of Judea and Samaria in an area which became known as the “west bank of the Jordan River (WBJR)” in the United Nations, ultimately shortened to the “West Bank”.  Jordan annexed that area in 1950, gave all Arabs living there citizenship and expelled all of the Jews from the area, counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Egypt assumed control of the Gaza Strip, but did not annex the area.

British Territory 1922 to 1948
Ottoman Territory 1517 to 1922

At the end of World War I, the defeated Ottoman Empire was carved up into several areas (including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan) which were administered by the French and British.  The lands currently known as WBJR and Gaza were part-and-parcel of the British Mandate and had no unique laws or characteristics.  Similarly under Ottoman rule for hundreds of years before the British, those areas were neither divided nor distinct.

As detailed above, there are not, nor have there ever been “Palestinian Territories”. Such terminology inherently upgrades the status of the Palestinian Authority and eliminates the legal role and status that Israel has in Areas B and C.


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