SWU WEEKLY MIDDLE EAST REPORT
The Obama Administration Double Standard on Housing Units in the Territories
The Obama administration expressed outrage last October at Israel’s plan to construct 300 new homes in Judea and Samaria, but no such outrage at the Palestinians building of 15,000 illegal housing units.
By: Joseph Puder
The Obama Administrations unprecedented vote to abstain rather than cast the traditional veto on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334, was, in the words of Professor Alan Dershowitz, “nasty” and referring to Obama as pulling a “bait and switch.” In a Fox-News interview, Dershowitz related that President Obama called him to ask for his support. Obama, Dershowitz recalled, said, “I will always have Israel’s back.” Dershowitz added, he indeed “stabbed” Israel in the back. The Obama administration rejection of the traditional U.S. policy toward Israel has to do with a personal vendetta against Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, and anger over the election of Donald Trump as president. There is moreover, a double-standard vis-à-vis housing in the territories.
UNSC Resolution 2334 is a non-binding document and deals with Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes “flagrant violation” of International law that has “no legal validity,” and demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligation as an “occupying power” under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The December 23, 2016 UNSC resolution obfuscates history and reality. It is reminiscent of the notorious 1975 UN Resolution that equated Zionism (Israel national liberation movement) with racism, this time with the Obama administration’s collusion, albeit, without naming it Zionism. The very term “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,” is outrageously false. Israel did not take “Palestinian territory in 1967, it took Jordanian territory, which the Jordanian Arab Legion illegally occupied in 1948. Israel won Judea and Samaria (West Bank) in a defensive war, after being attacked by Jordan. There was never a state of Palestine, nor Palestinian territories. What might have been “Palestinian territories” was rejected by Arab-Palestinians in 1947 during the UN vote on the Partition of (British) Mandatory Palestine. The Palestinian-Arabs, unlike Jewish-Palestinians, rejected the partition, choosing instead to annihilate the nascent Jewish state.
Ambassador Alan Baker, an Israeli expert on International law, former Israeli ambassador to Canada, and director of The Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed out that the Palestinian claim that “settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians (1949) is false. But both the text of that convention, and the post-World War II circumstances under which it was drafted, clearly indicate that it was never intended to refer to situations like Israel’s settlements. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Article 49 relates to situations where populations are coerced into being transferred. There is nothing to link such circumstances to Israel’s settlement policy.
During the negotiations on the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Arab states initiated an addition to the text in order to render it applicable to Israel’s settlement policy. This was indicative of the international community’s acknowledgment that the original 1949 Geneva Convention language was simply not relevant to Israel’s settlements.
The continued reliance by the international community on the Geneva Convention as the basis for determining the illegality of Israel’s settlements fails to take into account the unique nature of the history, legal framework, and negotiating circumstances regarding the West Bank.
A special regime between Israel and the Palestinians is set out in a series of agreements negotiated between 1993 and 1999 that are still valid – that govern all issues between them, settlements included. In this framework there is no specific provision restricting planning, zoning, and continued construction by either party. The Palestinians cannot now invoke the Geneva Convention regime in order to bypass previous internationally acknowledged agreements.”
Naturally, nothing has been said by the Obama administration about the illegal Arab-Palestinian construction of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Bassam Tawil, a Gatestone Institute scholar based in the Middle East, pointed out that, “Apparently, settlements are only a ‘major obstacle to peace’ when they are constructed by Jews. The EU and some Islamic governments and organizations are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank. The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media, who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.”
Tawil rhetorically asked “Who is behind the unprecedented wave of illegal construction? According to Arab residents of Jerusalem, many of the ‘contractors’ are actually land-thieves and thugs who lay their hands on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad. But they also point out that the EU, the PLO and some Arab and Islamic governments are funding the project. ‘They spot an empty plot of land and quickly move in to seize control over it,’ said a resident whose land was confiscated by the illegal contractors.”
Arab-Palestinian construction is not only illegal but unsafe as well. While the construction of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria has long been carried out with proper licenses, and within the framework of the law, the Arab-Palestinian construction does not begin to meet even the minimum standards required by engineers, architects, and housing planners. The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground. Moreover, half the apartments built remain empty, in spite of the ludicrous price tag of $25,000 - $50,000 per unit, when comparable Jewish housing is $250,000 and up. The answer is, of course, the EU funding. These homes have been built without permits, corroborated by the fact that unauthorized or illegal building by Palestinians is an ongoing problem in Area C, solely under Israeli control.
It is the same EU countries who voted to declare the Western Wall of Solomon’s Temple , and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem as “Palestinian territory” at last Friday’s vote (December 23, 2016), funded Palestinian housing, while repeatedly condemning Israeli construction due to family enlargement. Yet, in the Oslo Accords framework there is no specific provision restricting planning, zoning, and continued construction by either party in Judea and Samaria. The difference is that Jewish construction is done lawfully, legally, and safe, while the Palestinian construction is unlawful, unsafe, and serves one purpose only - to avoid negotiating with Israel a peaceful disposition of the territories called Judea and Samaria.
The UN, Britain and the Obama administration expressed outrage last October at Israel’s plan to construct 300 new homes in Judea and Samaria, but no such outrage at the genocide in Syria, or the building of 15,000 illegal Palestinian housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. The Obama administrations deliberate abstention in last Friday’s vote, which was akin to voting “yes” for this notoriously anti-Israel biased resolution, is inimical to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and will serve to further encourage the PA to incite against the Jewish state, while avoiding a negotiated settlement with Israel. It also exposes the double-standard used by the Obama administration in dealing with Israel.