President Obama asserts, seconded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” in the West Bank. Both have praised the 10-month freeze on new residential building — excluding eastern Jerusalem — that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced late last month.
Netanyahu now calls for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations or take the blame for lack of progress when the “one-time-only” freeze expires. Abbas’ precondition — adopted after Washington’s pronouncements — is that all Israeli construction, including in eastern Jerusalem, must cease permanently.
Too bad international diplomacy doesn’t have a replay button. If it did, the parties could look back at history, which would show that Israeli settlements not only are legitimate under international law but positively encouraged.
Erik Rozenman i LA Times.
The conviction that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal is now so commonly accepted, it hardly seems as though the matter is even open for discussion. But it is. Decades of argument about the issue have obscured the complex nature of the specific legal question about which a supposedly overwhelming verdict of guilty has been rendered against settlement policy.
There can be no doubt that this avalanche of negative opinion has been deeply influenced by the settlements’ unpopularity around the world and even within Israel itself. Yet, while one may debate the wisdom of Israeli settlements, the idea that they are imprudent is quite different from branding them as illegal.
Indeed, the analysis underlying the conclusion that the settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is “Arab” land. Followed to its logical conclusion—as some have done—this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself.
David M Philips i Commentary Magazine: “The Illegal-Settlements Myth“