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International Humanitarian Law, ICRC and Israel’s Status in the Territories

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International Humanitarian Law, ICRC and Israel’s Status in the Territories– Alan Baker (International Review of the Red Cross)
(Daily alert)

There are some basic assumptions in International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) official positions and statements regarding the status of the territories administered by Israel since 1967 that appear to have become lingua franca in the UN. The most frequently repeated and inaccurate assumption is to describe the historically-termed areas of Judea and Samaria, Gaza, and the eastern part of Jerusalem as the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” This expression is inaccurate historically and legally, and is inherently and clearly politically-slanted.

These areas – situated in the “West Bank” of the Jordan River, an area originally described in the November 29, 1947, UN General Assembly “Partition” Resolution 181 as “the hill country of Samaria and Judea” – have never been part of any sovereign or other formal Palestinian entity. There has never been any binding treaty, agreement, resolution or any other international document that has accorded this territory to the Palestinians. The expression “Occupied Palestinian Territory” is a political term, representing nothing more than a political viewpoint.

The unique historic and legal nature of the West Bank territories of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, with basic historic rights emanating from time immemorial and encapsulated legally in official, binding and still valid international documents, renders invalid any attempt to use loaded and inappropriate definitions such as “occupied territories” to designate or describe their status.

By any objective criterion, the status of the territory could only be considered to be “disputed territory,” subject to an ongoing negotiation process between the involved parties, aimed at determining by agreement the fate of the territory. Any claim or determination, even by the ICRC, attempting to designate and assign the territory to one party, or to deny the rights and status of any party, could only be seen as a departure from the strict policy of neutrality dictated by the fundamental principles of the Red Cross.

  • The writer is former legal adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former ambassador of Israel to Canada.
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