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Summaries of 3 articles on legality of Israeli settlements by Daily Alert, with links

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Nov. 19, 2019

Israel’s rights in the West Bank did not originate with the 1967 Six-Day War. The Balfour Declaration issued by the British government in 1917 acknowledged the indigenous presence and historic aspirations of the Jewish people to reestablish their historic national home in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration received international legal acknowledgment and validity in a series of instruments, commencing with the 1920 San Remo Conference, and was subsequently approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.

    Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel attained control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) from Jordan. However, Jordan was not considered by the international community as having attained legitimate sovereign rights there following its 1950 unrecognized annexation of the areas. From the legal point of view, since there existed no legitimate sovereign power, the classic laws of occupation were not legally applicable.

    The Oslo Accords created a legal regime that overrides any other previously applicable legal framework. The parties agreed that this arrangement would remain valid pending the outcome of negotiations between them. Despite attempts by the international community, through nonbinding political statements and resolutions in the UN, to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations by claiming that the territories are “occupied Palestinian territories,” there exists no such legally accepted determination.

    The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. (Tablet)

Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University, said the 1978 State Department legal opinion on Israeli settlements issued during the Carter Administration, known as the Hansell Memorandum, was “legally inaccurate and long-outdated.” “The international-law arguments against settlements…do not reflect international law in practice, but rather a desire to put nice words on the argument that Jews should be banned from living in their homeland. Secretary Pompeo has torn the veil off these arguments.”

    “The U.S. now correctly takes the position that Israel is not an occupying power in the West Bank, and Jews living in Judea and Samaria is not a war crime. This does not close the door to a two-state solution. It does mean the negotiations about such a solution will no longer begin from the premise that Israel has no claim to this land or stole it from the Palestinians. That false legal theory only served to harden Palestinian positions and make successful negotiations impossible.  (JNS)

After the decision by the State Department to declare that Israeli settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank are not inherently illegal or illegitimate, the New York Times declared that this might “doom any peace efforts with Palestinians,” as though there are any peace efforts with the Palestinians to doom right now or in the foreseeable future. For the past decade, the Palestinians have withdrawn from any realistic effort to forge a future for themselves in a land they might take as a state, and torpedoed negotiations when and if they ever got anywhere near a resolution. (Commentary)
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