Moshe Dann: Enough Already: Are Israeli Settlements Actually ‘Illegal’?





[The author, a former assistant professor of history, is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.]

Despite all the legally binding treaties, covenants, and agreements that established the Palestine Mandate in 1922 and empowered its British administration to ensure that this area would become “the Jewish National Home,” it’s strange that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are condemned as “illegitimate,” “illegal,” and “violations of international law.” How did this happen?

Bashing “the settlements” is commonly used to delegitimize Israel, negate the right of Jews to live in their homeland, and promote a second Arab Palestinian state. But are these charges valid? In order to answer this question one must refer to the law, the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV), specifically Article 49.

Does GC IV apply to Israel? Do settlements violate GC IV? Is Israel occupying another country? Did Israel compel a transfer of populations, considered illegal under GC IV? Who has sovereignty? These questions have occupied generations of legal experts and politicians, filled library shelves, and generated much confusion....

To whom does this territory legally belong? Jordan claimed it as its “West Bank” until 1988; Israel was willing to exchange it for peace, but the Arabs refused. In 1971, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the official “guardians” of GC IV, arbitrarily declared that Israel’s presence in “occupied territories” violated GC IV and was therefore illegal....

[But] logically, since Jordan renounced its claim to Judea and Samaria in 1988, and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, recognizing its current border, the only other possible valid legal claim, defined in the Mandate, is that of Israel; Palestinians have no claim because the area was never a Palestinian state....



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