Kerry’s Slander of ‘Illegitimate’ Israeli Settlements
Posted By P. David Hornik
November 8, 2013
The Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” have reportedly hit a rough patch. The talks on Tuesday were said to have “ended in a row, with raised voices and the exchange of verbal insults.”
It started last week when Israel released the second batch of Palestinian security prisoners, all of whom were serving time for murder or attempted murder. They were welcomed as heroes in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas shook each freed prisoner’s hand, and they wereawarded generous cash grants on top of the stipends they already receive.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to allay outrage particularly on the more right-leaning side of his coalition, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahuannounced the building of 3500 housing units for Israelis—all of them either in East Jerusalem or West Bank (Judea and Samaria) settlement blocs. Several Israeli officials claimed the Palestinian side had already consented to such construction as a quid pro quo for the prisoner releases.
Tuesday’s dustup in the talks was said to have erupted over that issue. The Palestinian negotiators claimed their side had never agreed to such a quid pro quo and slammed the construction itself. Many reports said the talks on the whole were on the verge of collapse.
A few hours later, on Tuesday afternoon, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry arrived in Israel in an effort to salvage the situation.
For one thing, he claimed that “at no time” had the Palestinians consented to any Israeli building beyond the 1949 armistice lines—even, it was implied, as a concession in return for Israel’s wholesale freeing of terrorists.
Kerry also stated, immediately after discussions with Abbas: “Let me emphasize at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider them…to be illegitimate.”
Considering that about half a million Israelis now live in Jerusalem neighborhoods that are dubbed “settlements” and in West Bank communities, which include full-fledged towns like Modi’in Illit (pop. 59,000), Beitar Illit (pop. 46,000), Maale Adumim (pop. 39,000), Ariel (pop. 18,000) and others, and considering that in some of these areas Israelis are subjected to frequent, potentially lethal rock- and firebomb-throwing attacks, along with actual lethal and near-lethal shooting, beating, and stabbing attacks in recent months (here, here, here, and here), the charge that all Israeli Jewish residence in these places is “illegitimate” is serious indeed and seemingly incendiary and dangerous.
Kerry is not the first Obama-administration official to have used that term to describe communities comprising half a million Israelis; others were his predecessor as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and, while she was UN ambassador, Susan Rice.
Is the description accurate? The question is complicated by the fact that it has never been clear what “illegitimate” means. If it’s code for “illegal,” the legality of Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines (often called the “1967 borders”) has been affirmed by international-law experts Eugene Rostow, Stephen Schwebel, Julius Stone, and others.
And as noted by Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and former Israeli ambassador to Canada:
The Palestinian leadership, in the still valid 1995 Interim Agreement (Oslo 2), agreed to, and accepted Israel’s continued presence in Judea and Samaria pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations, without any restriction on either side regarding planning, zoning or construction of homes and communities.
So if these Israeli communities are legal under international law, and the Palestinian side is on record accepting their existence and development in an internationally ratified document, it is hard to see what the “illegitimacy” charge is supposed to indicate.
Meanwhile neither Kerry nor any other Obama-administration official has been heard to even question the “legitimacy” of the Palestinian Authority publicly celebrating, lauding, and financially rewarding freed murderers of Israelis. It was, indeed, Kerry himself who severely pressured Israel (see here and here) to take the measure of freeing them in the first place.
In other words, a bad stench of twisted morality arises from Kerry’s ongoing push for “peace.”
“I can tell you,” Kerry said this week in Israel, “that President Obama and I are determined, and neither of us will stop in our efforts to pursue the possibility (of peace).”
Can peace be built on the glorification of murder and on the defamation of half a million people who are already under attack?
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