by Malcolm Lowe • September 7, 2016 at 4:00 am
All the settlements created by Israel before the Oslo accords are legitimate, including the new Israeli housing estates created in the extended boundaries of Jerusalem. As long as the "interim period" envisaged in those accords remains in force, Israel is allowed to build within the originally defined pre-Oslo boundaries of the settlements, but is not allowed to change their pre-Oslo status. The Palestinians are not excluded from demanding a total Israeli withdrawal to the ceasefire lines of 1949, but Israel is likewise not excluded from demanding the retention not merely of the settlements but also of any other part of the Mandatory Palestine of 1947.
The Fourth Geneva Convention contains a Part I that applies to wars both within a Power and between Powers. Otherwise, the Convention applies primarily to wars between Powers alone. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians began as a civil war under the British Mandate for Palestine and continued as such until at least the late 1980s. Until then, consequently, Part I of the Convention applied to the conflict, including Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line, but Part III – which purportedly forbids the existence of such settlements – did not yet apply. Part III became relevant, if at all, only for events that postdated the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Picture: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat at the Oslo accord signing ceremony on September 13, 1993.
Arafat clearly never abandoned the struggle to eliminate the State of Israel. In 1996, Arafat publicly stated: "We Palestinians will take over everything ... You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel, and establish a purely Palestinian state. ... I have no use for Jews; they are and remain, Jews." (Image source: Vince Musi / The White House)
If there is anything that perplexes good friends of Israel, it is the issue of settlements beyond the "Green Line" (a misleading term, as we shall see). In a familiar phenomenon, a foreign politician arrives in Jerusalem to make a speech that manifests genuine admiration of the State of Israel and its achievements, but proceeds to an equally genuine cry of distress over its settlement policies. Why? Because they are supposedly "illegal under international law."