Photos of West Bank

Introduction

Background

Inhabited since at least the 15th century B.C., the West Bank has been dominated by many different peoples throughout its history; it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century. The West Bank fell to British forces during World War I, becoming part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the West Bank was captured by Transjordan (later renamed Jordan), which annexed the West Bank in 1950; it was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967. Under a series of agreements known as the Oslo accords signed between 1993 and 1999, Israel transferred to the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip. In 2000, a violent intifada or uprising began, and in 2001 negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled. Subsequent attempts to re-start direct negotiations have not resulted in progress toward determining final status of the area.

Roughly 60% of the West Bank, remains under Israeli civil and military control. In early 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) election. Attempts to form a unity government between Fatah, the dominant Palestinian political faction in the West Bank, and HAMAS failed, leading to violent clashed between their respective supporters and HAMAS's violent siezure of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Since 2007, the PA has administered parts of the West Bank under its control, mainly the major Palestinian population centers and areas immediately surrounding them. Fatah and HAMAS have made several attempts at reconciliation, but the factions have been unable to implement agreements including the latest agreement signed in October 2017. In December 2018, the Palestinian Constitutional Court dissolved the PLC. In 2019, PA President ABBAS renewed his calls for PLC elections.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Middle East, west of Jordan, east of Israel

Geographic coordinates

32 00 N, 35 15 E

Map references

Middle East

Area

total: 5,860 sq km

land: 5,640 sq km

water: 220 sq km

note: includes West Bank, Latrun Salient, and the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea, but excludes Mt. Scopus; East Jerusalem and Jerusalem No Man's Land are also included only as a means of depicting the entire area occupied by Israel in 1967

country comparison to the world: 171

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Delaware

Land boundaries

total: 478 km

border countries (2): Israel 330 km, Jordan 148 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters

Terrain

mostly rugged, dissected upland in west, flat plains descending to Jordan River Valley to the east

Elevation

lowest point: Dead Sea -431 m

highest point: Khallat al Batrakh 1,020 m

Land use

agricultural land: 43.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 7.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 11% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 24.9% (2018 est.)

forest: 1.5% (2018 est.)

other: 55.2% (2018 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

Irrigated land

240 sq km; note - includes Gaza Strip (2012)

Total renewable water resources

837 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

note: data represent combined total from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Population distribution

Palestinian settlements are primarily located in the central to western half of the territory; Jewish settlements are found in pockets throughout, particularly in the northeast, north-central, and around Jerusalem

Geography - note

landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel's coastal aquifers; there are about 380 Israeli civilian sites, including about 213 settlements and 132 small outpost communities in the West Bank and 35 sites in East Jerusalem (2017)

People and Society

Population

2,949,246 (July 2021 est.)

note: approximately 418,600 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank (2018); approximately 215,900 Israeli settlers live in East Jerusalem (2017)

country comparison to the world: 139

Nationality

noun: NA

adjective: NA

Ethnic groups

Palestinian Arab, Jewish, other

Languages

Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by Israeli settlers and many Palestinians), English (widely understood)

Religions

Muslim 80-85% (predominantly Sunni), Jewish 12-14%, Christian 1-2.5% (mainly Greek Orthodox), other, unaffiliated, unspecified <1% (2012 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 35.31% (male 525,645/female 498,458)

15-24 years: 20.75% (male 307,420/female 294,469)

25-54 years: 35.19% (male 516,758/female 503,626)

55-64 years: 5.12% (male 76,615/female 72,006)

65 years and over: 3.62% (male 48,387/female 56,650) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 71.2

youth dependency ratio: 65.7

elderly dependency ratio: 5.5

potential support ratio: 18.2 (2020 est.)

note: data represent Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Median age

total: 21.9 years

male: 21.7 years

female: 22.2 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Birth rate

24.8 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 48

Death rate

3.43 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 222

Net migration rate

-4.16 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 194

Population distribution

Palestinian settlements are primarily located in the central to western half of the territory; Jewish settlements are found in pockets throughout, particularly in the northeast, north-central, and around Jerusalem

Urbanization

urban population: 77% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.85% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

note: data represent Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female

total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

27 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

note: data represent Gaza Strip and the West Bank

country comparison to the world: 118

Infant mortality rate

total: 15.68 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 18.14 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 13.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 99

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 76.12 years

male: 74.02 years

female: 78.36 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 109

Contraceptive prevalence rate

57.2% (2014)

note: includes Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 97.1% of population

rural: 97.1% of population

total: 96.8% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.9% of population

rural: 2.9% of population

total: 3.2% of population (2017 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Physicians density

1.45 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 99.3% of population

total: 99.8% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0.7% of population

total: 0.2% of population (2017 est.)

note: note includes Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

1.4% (2014)

note: estimate is for Gaza Strip and the West Bank

country comparison to the world: 123

Education expenditures

5.3% of GDP (2017)

note: includes Gaza Strip and the West Bank

country comparison to the world: 48

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 97.2%

male: 98.7%

female: 95.7% (2018)

note: estimates are for Gaza and the West Bank

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 13 years

female: 14 years (2019)

note: data represent Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 42.2%

male: 37%

female: 69.4% (2018 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 9

Environment

Environment - current issues

adequacy of freshwater supply; sewage treatment

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 3.23 megatons (2016 est.)

note: data represent combined total from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 181.2 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 32 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 162 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

note: data represent combined total from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Total renewable water resources

837 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

note: data represent combined total from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Climate

temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters

Land use

agricultural land: 43.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 7.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 11% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 24.9% (2018 est.)

forest: 1.5% (2018 est.)

other: 55.2% (2018 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

Urbanization

urban population: 77% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.85% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

note: data represent Gaza Strip and the West Bank

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 1.387 million tons (2016 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 6,935 tons (2013 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 0.5% (2013 est.)

note: data represent combined total from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: West Bank

etymology: name refers to the location of the region - occupied and administered by Jordan after 1948 - that fell on the far side (west bank) of the Jordan River in relation to Jordan proper; the designation was retained following the 1967 Six-Day War and the subsequent changes in government

Economy

Economic overview

In 2017, the economic outlook in the West Bank - the larger of the two areas comprising the Palestinian Territories – remained fragile, as security concerns and political friction slowed economic growth. Unemployment in the West Bank remained high at 19.0% in the third quarter of 2017, only slightly better than 19.6% at the same point the previous year, while the labor force participation rate remained flat, year-on-year.

Longstanding Israeli restrictions on imports, exports, and movement of goods and people continue to disrupt labor and trade flows and the territory’s industrial capacity, and constrain private sector development. The PA’s budget benefited from an effort to improve tax collection, coupled with lower spending in 2017, but the PA for the foreseeable future will continue to rely heavily on donor aid for its budgetary needs and infrastructure development.

Real GDP growth rate

5.3% (2014 est.)

1% (2013 est.)

6% (2012 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 42

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

0.2% (2017 est.)

-0.2% (2016 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 31

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$21.22 billion (2014 est.)

$20.15 billion (2013 est.)

$19.95 billion (2012 est.)

note: data are in 2014 US dollars; includes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 149

GDP (official exchange rate)

$9.828 billion (2014 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

Real GDP per capita

$6,220 (2019 est.)

$6,318 (2018 est.)

$6,402 (2017 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 165

Gross national saving

15.5% of GDP (2018 est.)

14.4% of GDP (2017 est.)

5% of GDP (2012 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 144

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.9% (2017 est.)

industry: 19.5% (2017 est.)

services: 77.6% (2017 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 91.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 26.7% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 23% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 20% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -61% (2017 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

Agricultural products

tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, poultry, milk, potatoes, sheep milk, eggplants, gourds

Industries

small-scale manufacturing, quarrying, textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, and mother-of-pearl souvenirs

Labor force

1.24 million (2017 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 134

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 11.5%

industry: 34.4%

services: 54.1% (2013 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

Unemployment rate

27.9% (2017 est.)

27% (2016 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 201

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.2%

highest 10%: 28.2% (2009 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

Budget

revenues: 1.314 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 1.278 billion (2017 est.)

note: includes Palestinian Authority expenditures in the Gaza Strip

Public debt

24.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

23.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 177

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$1.444 billion (2017 est.)

-$1.348 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 158

Exports

$2.126 billion (2017 est.)

$1.827 billion (2016 est.)

note: excludes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 143

Exports - commodities

stone, olives, fruit, vegetables, limestone

Imports

$6.565 billion (2017 est.)

$6.207 billion (2016 est.)

note: data include the Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 127

Imports - commodities

food, consumer goods, construction materials, petroleum, chemicals

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$0 (31 December 2017 est.)

$583 million (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 195

Debt - external

$1.662 billion (31 March 2016 est.)

$1.467 billion (31 March 2015 est.)

note: data include the Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 158

Exchange rates

new Israeli shekels (ILS) per US dollar -

3.606 (2017 est.)

3.841 (2016 est.)

3.841 (2015 est.)

3.8869 (2014 est.)

3.5779 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

note: data for West Bank and Gaza Strip combined

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 472,293 (includes Gaza Strip) (2017 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (includes Gaza Strip) (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 93

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 4,135,363 (includes Gaza Strip) (2017 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 76 (includes Gaza Strip) (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: continuing political and economic instability has impeded liberalization of the telecommunications industry (2018)

domestic: Israeli company BEZEK and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for fixed-line services; two Palestinian cellular providers, JAWWAL and WATANIYA MOBILE, launched 3G mobile networks in the West Bank in January 2018 after Israel lifted its ban; fixed-line 9 per 100 and mobile-cellular 76 per 100 (includes Gaza Strip) (2019)

international: country code 970 or 972; 1 international switch in Ramallah

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

the Palestinian Authority operates 1 TV and 1 radio station; about 20 private TV and 40 radio stations; both Jordanian TV and satellite TV are accessible

Internet country code

.psnote - same as Gaza Strip

Internet users

total: 2.673 million (includes Gaza Strip)

percent of population: 57.4% (July 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 106

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 371,299

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14 (2017 est.)

note: includes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 93

Transportation

Airports - with paved runways

total: 2 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

under 914 m: 1 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Roadways

total: 4,686 km (2010)

paved: 4,686 km (2010)

note: includes Gaza Strip

country comparison to the world: 149

Military and Security

Military and security forces

per the Oslo Accords, the PA is not permitted a conventional military but maintains security and police forces; PA security personnel have operated almost exclusively in the West Bank since HAMAS seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007; PA forces include National Security Forces, Presidential Guard, Civil Police, Civil Defense, Preventative Security Service, the General Intelligence Organization, and the Military Intelligence Organization (2020)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Palestinian Authority Security Forces have approximately 30,000 active personnel (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Palestinian Authority Security Forces are armed mostly with small arms and light weapons, although since 2007, they have received limited amounts of heavier equipment from Jordan (armored personnel carriers) and Russia (armored personnel carriers and transport helicopters) (2020)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade; HAMAS; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force; Kahane Chai; Palestine Islamic Jihad; Palestine Liberation Front; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (2019)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

the current status of the West Bank is subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement - permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a "seam line" separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew from Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank in August 2005; since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), headquartered in Jerusalem, monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 858,758 (Palestinian refugees) (2020)

IDPs: 243,000 (includes persons displaced within the Gaza strip due to the intensification of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since June 2014 and other Palestinian IDPs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank who fled as long ago as 1967, although confirmed cumulative data do not go back beyond 2006) (2019)