Pages: 1 2
This week a three-person committee appointed in January by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu started handing out its 89-page report on settlements and the legal status of Israel’s presence in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The committee was led by Edmund Levy, a retired Supreme Court justice, and also included Alan Baker, a former ambassador to Canada and legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, and Tchia Shapira, a former deputy president of the Tel Aviv District Court.
The report’s (summarized here) conclusions on the most basic level are consistent with what any fair, informed consideration of the issue will indicate. First, Israel is not an occupier in the West Bank; second, what the 1949 Geneva Convention said about population transfers—in response to Nazi occupations in World War II—does not apply to Israel’s circumstances in the West Bank; and third, “according to international law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal.”
The reasons are straightforward. In the Palestine Mandate of 1922, the League of Nations granted Jews the right to “close settlement” of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean—including, of course, the West Bank. While, according to the terms of the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, the Jewish leadership was willing to forgo its right to parts of the land where a Palestinian state was to be established, including the West Bank, the Palestinian and Arab side emphatically rejected the partition plan and instead launched a war to strangle the newborn state of Israel in its cradle.
When the dust cleared from that conflict, Judea and Samaria were in the hands of Jordan—which had conquered them as part of a violent aggression aimed at eradicating another state. Jordan’s rule there from 1949 to 1967 was never recognized by any world body, or by any individual countries other than Britain and Pakistan. In the 1967 Six-Day War—in which Egypt, Syria, and Jordan again tried to wipe out the Jewish state—Israel instead conquered the West Bank back from Jordan. In 1988 Jordan formally renounced all claim to the territory.
Simple logic, then, dictates that since 1967 the West Bank has belonged to Israel—unless it should voluntarily choose, similar to the Jewish leadership in 1947, to forgo part of its right to it. First, no international legal document has ever superseded the Palestine Mandate and its terms have never been abrogated. Second, Jordan was one of the aggressors in the 1967 conflict, and to say the attacked party is obligated to restore land to the attacking side—in other words, that aggression must be rewarded—mocks both common sense and morality.
As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem.
Also affirming Israel’s rights was the late renowned legal scholar Eugene V. Rostow, who wrote that Israel’s right to settle the West Bank was “unassailable.” Experts taking similar views since 1967 have included Julius Stone, David Matas, David M. Phillips (hat tip to Ted Belman for the latter three links), and others.
None of this, of course, has stopped Israel’s alleged “occupation” and settlement of the West Bank from being one of the causes célèbres of international politics since 1967, with the UN and the EU—bodies very much under Arab and Muslim sway—ritually denouncing both as “illegal.” And while U.S. presidents except for Jimmy Carter have not viewed the settlements as illegal, they have been highly critical of them and insistent, to varying degrees, that Israel’s relinquishment of lands conquered in 1967 is a key to peace.
Pages: 1 2