The Jerusalem Post
Unsettled status of settlements
The article “Israeli settlements are legitimate under international law” (July 4) and its headline are wishful thinking.
On November 2, 1917 a copy of the Balfour Declaration was sent to Lord Rothschild. The opening paragraph states “I have pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following “declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations.” A declaration of sympathy is ambiguous and does not promise anything.
It then goes on to say that His Majesty’s government “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The Balfour Declaration did not mention any borders, it did not mention Jerusalem, and never promised the Jews a state. It used the words “national home” in small letters. This is not the definition of a state. “In Palestine” could mean any part of Palestine. What the Balfour Declaration did was raise the hopes of millions of Jews that Britain had at long last shown some sympathy for the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration was adopted by the League of
Nations and subsequently by the United Nations. Some 31 years after the Balfour Declaration was approved, the State of Israel was established in a small part of Palestine.
In 1922, Winston Churchill was the secretary of the Colonies when he issued his famous White Paper. Churchill was familiar with the Balfour Declaration. Churchill clearly stated in the White Paper that Britain never promised the whole of Palestine to the Jews. In 1917 when the Balfour Declaration was published, between 60,000 and 70,000 Jews lived in Palestine. It would be farfetched to assume that Britain would promise the whole of Palestine to so few Jews. In fact, Churchill used this very reasoning to grant the area east of the Jordan River, part of the British Mandate area of Palestine, to the Hashemites. It was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
On December 23, 2016, UN Resolution 2334 was passed in the Security Council with America abstaining. The resolution condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 including East Jerusalem, including inter alia the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.” Resolution 2334 considers both east Jerusalem and the West Bank as Palestinian territory and Israeli settlements as illegal.
No matter what one thinks of Resolution 2334, it is reasonable to conclude that resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council are part of what constitutes international law. By not exercising a US veto of this resolution, President Obama showed his belief in what he considered the rights of the Palestinians to a state.
It is clear from the above that the status of Israeli settlements from an international legal point of view has never been finalized and are in dispute. Until this is clarified, one cannot claim that Israeli settlements are (or are not) legitimate under international law.
Israel’s Levy Report, published nine years ago, substantially reached the same conclusions as the article (that settlements do not violate international law).
It was led by the late Justice Edmund Levy, with members Alan Baker and Tchia Shapira. Although not formerly adopted by the Israeli government, it was set as a framework for dealing with the sensitive issues in Judea and Samaria.