Palestine Geography and Politics

By | June 6, 2022

According to Homosociety, Palestine is a region of the Near East limited to the West by the Mediterranean Sea and to the North by the southern buttresses of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, while the borders on the other sides are uncertain, in which it insensibly passes through the very arid areas of the Syriac Desert, E, and Sinai a S. The vagueness of the borders derives from the fact that Palestine is difficult to define as a natural region: on the one hand it is part of a larger Syriac-Palestinian regional complex; on the other hand it is a set of distinct areas for morphological and climatic characters. Rather, it is a historical-anthropic region, and as such it has undergone variations in size over time due to the alternating phases of advance and regression of the settlement along the desert edges and the complex political events of the territory.

Through the various ages the region was designated with different names (Retenu in N and Haru in S in Egyptian documents; Canaan in Egyptian, Babylonian and Bible documents; Holy Land ) among which the one transmitted by the Greeks prevailed, which they knew above all the coastal parts to the South of Phenicia, occupied in the 12th century. BC by the Philistines. From the name of these (Heb. Pĕlishtīm) derive Παλαιστίνη, Palaestine and Palestine.


The Palestine is divided into at least three different morphological units: the flat coastal region; the median (or West Bank) plateau; the central pit (called al-Ghawr by the Arabs). The coastal plain north of the Gulf of Haifa is 7-10 km wide; bordered by dune cords, it then extends considerably to the E between Carmel (546 m) and the plateau of Galilee and forms the fertile plain of Esdrelon (or of Iezreel), 60-80 m asl high, which penetrates deeply opening a way to the Jordan. Interrupted by the almost isolated relief of Carmel, the coastal plain resumes wider to the South, where it has large arable areas. The area N of Jaffa corresponds to the fertile plain of Saron ; in the one to the South of Jaffa the aridity becomes gradually greater and the plain is gently revealed towards the interior, interrupted by large beds that are almost always dry. The West Bank plateau is higher and more rugged towards the N where some reliefs with flat tops exceed 1000 m asl; this is the upper Galilee, which with a kind of step descends to the S on the lower Galilee, a region of gentle undulations (Mount Tabor, regular and isolated cone at 588 m) which in turn become depressed to give rise to the plain of Esdrelon. AS of this, the plateau re-emerges and forms an alternating country of reliefs and diagonal depressions, Samaria, followed, even more to the south, by Giudea, a ridge winding between the two sides. AS of Hebron the plateau descends with a steep edge towards a lower region: the Negev, a monotonous plain just undulating and furrowed by large dry beds almost in every season. At the southern end, the terrain is revealed again and becomes more rugged. This long area of ​​low mountains is then truncated to the east, where the trench opens up which largely forms the impluvium of the Jordan. Near the steep margins, the pit presents notable manifestations of volcanism in the form of tiny eruptive cones, basaltic expansions and lava flows: two of these, having invaded it, gave rise to the basins of the al-Ḥūle lakes (now drained and reclaimed) and Tiberias. The southern part of the pit was then filled by a vast lake basin, of which there is a remnant of Dead Sea ; to the South of the Dead Sea it is continued by the furrow of the wadi al-Arabah.

Climate and hydrography

The climate of Palestine is affected by its situation between the Mediterranean and the desert and by the various conditions of the altitude. Some aspects such as the mildness of winters, especially in the coastal strip, recall the Mediterranean climate, while the prevailing dryness of the atmosphere, the scarcity of rains and their concentration in a single semester herald the desert climate.

Apart from the Jordan, the Palestine has short and generally temporary streams. In Galilee the most notable are the Nahr al-Qarn, the wadi al-Ḥalzūn and the wadi al-Muqaṭṭā ‛, which runs through the plain of Esdrelon. In the Saron plain the most important watercourse is the Nahr Iskanderun; further to the South flow the Nahr al-‛Augiā ‘, then the wadi Sōreq, the Nahr Sukreir and the wadi al-Ḥesī; the long wadi Ghazza has the largest concentration basin. The wadis al-Muqaṭṭā ‛and al-‛Augiā ‘are widely used for irrigation.

Political and economic structure

On the political level, the territory includes the state of Israel and the territories which, following the Israeli-Palestinian agreements signed between 1993 and 2000, are legally subject to the Palestinian National Authority (ANP, an institution specifically created in application of the Oslo agreements). The territories administered by the Palestine are the Gaza Strip and some areas of the West Bank (including the cities of Jericho, Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem), with an area of ​​6,257 km 2 and 4,013,126 residents (2009 estimate), of which over 1,500,000 live in the Gaza Strip (378 km 2). Within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, from 1967 onwards, dozens of Jewish colonies have been established, with a substantial population. Although the evacuation of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and four other settlements in the northern West Bank was completed in 2005, some 364,000 Israeli settlers remain in Palestinian territory.

The economic conditions of the Palestinian territories are critical, especially after the construction in 2002 of the separation wall between the Palestinian territories and Israel. In fact, the transit of both goods and workers is severely hindered (thousands are Palestinians employed as frontier workers in Israeli companies). An important sign of this dramatic situation is the very high unemployment rate (16.3% in the West Bank and 41.3% in 2008 in the Gaza Strip). The natural resources of the territories are very scarce and are limited in practice to little arable land and natural gas fields, located off the coast of Gaza, the exploitation of which is still disputed between the State of Israel and the Palestine. The few Palestinian exports are represented by agricultural products and mainly go to Israel, from which about 80% of imports come. The very weak industrial sector is based on small artisanal enterprises. The main source of income for the Palestinian population, in addition to the export of labor to Israel, is therefore constituted by the public sector, which contributes 79% to GDP and absorbs 68% of the active population, distributing income in ways that are certainly not very productive. (and, according to many observers, heavily tainted by patronage and corruption), and which in turn is fueled by international aid. The extreme weakness of all communication and transport infrastructures is also a powerful brake on economic development, but in particular the problem of the availability and management of water resources, which the territories subject to the PNA share with the State of Israel and which are largely controlled by the Israelis, weighs heavily on the take-off of the Palestinian economy. According to a report by the World Bank (Assessment of restrictions on Palestinian water sector development, April 2009), “the asymmetrical capacities between the two parties, as well as the provisional management rules and practices that have been established, ultimately resulted in severe restrictions on development, the use and management of Palestinian water resources ”. Water-related humanitarian crises have thus become a chronic fact, particularly in Gaza but also in a part of the West Bank, areas in which the consumption of drinking water per resident is four times lower than that guaranteed within Israel.

Palestine Geography