18 November 2019   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has reversed an official US position that has been in place since 1967. It announced today that it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be against international law. In the 1967 war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, Israel took control of three parcels of land: the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. International law treats such territory as “occupied” which holds a special place in international law as codified in the Geneva Accords. The International Committee of the Red Cross outlines the character of occupied territory:

“Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations (HR) states that a ‘territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.’

“According to their common Article 2, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 apply to any territory occupied during international hostilities. They also apply in situations where the occupation of state territory meets with no armed resistance.

“The legality of any particular occupation is regulated by the UN Charter and the law known as jus ad bellum. Once a situation exists which factually amounts to an occupation the law of occupation applies – whether or not the occupation is considered lawful.

“Therefore, for the applicability of the law of occupation, it makes no difference whether an occupation has received Security Council approval, what its aim is, or indeed whether it is called an ‘invasion’, ‘liberation’, ‘administration’ or ‘occupation’. As the law of occupation is primarily motivated by humanitarian considerations, it is solely the facts on the ground that determine its application.”

In March of 2019, President Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the only state in the United Nations other than Israel to make such a declaration. The UN Security Council had passed Resolution 497 which declared the Israeli announcement of sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 1981 null and void–a resolution which the US supported at that time. But there are few Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights nor are there any in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, however, there almost 600,000 Israeli settlers in about 140 settlements.

The new US position was welcomed by Israel but was repudiated by Palestinians. The new US position makes the stated objective of US foreign policy–a two-state solution–virtually impossible. But it also makes the prospect of peace between Israelis and Palestinians more unlikely. Ultimately, Israel will have to decide whether it will completely annex the West Bank. If it does, it will have to make a choice: give the Palestinians full citizenship rights (which means that Palestinians will be able to outvote Israelis in any national election) or to treat Palestinians in the West Bank as less than full legal citizens in Israel. The first choice means an end to the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. The second choice means an end to the idea of Israel as a democratic state. Neither choice is a good one for Israel.

Posted November 18, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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