By Ted Belman (Mar 16, 2016)
When Times of Israel published West Bank settlements are legal, Foreign Ministry asserts in Dec/15, I was generally pleased, thinking that the document the Foreign Ministry was publishing, supported the legality of the settlements. I assumed that it also asserted our rights to the land. I shouldn’t have assumed anything and I should have read the article.
[The document] states that Israel has “valid property claims” to West Bank territory, as “Jewish affinity” with the region and in cities such as Hebron is thousands of years old.
When reading this, I failed to notice that it didn’t support our “valid property claims” based on San Remo Resolution, The Palestine Mandate, and Article 80 of the UN Charter, which specifically preserves these rights. To my mind this was a huge omission and must have been intended.
In addition, the case for legality was weakly made thereby diminishing its effectiveness. The Levy Report did a much better job of it. For instance, the Levy Report states that “Israel has every right to claim sovereignty over these territories” which the new document does not.
The document was drafted at Hotovely’s behest after she discovered that the Foreign Ministry’s directives on the country’s official stance on the West Bank had not been updated in 14 years, Channel 2 reported.
A little research on these past directives discovers one, not 14 years but 17 years ago, namely in 1996, titled “Israel’s Settlements – Conformity with International law”
Both documents are very similar in making the case for the legality of the settlements, in that they both use the same headings and quotations and language. So what was the need to produce a new document? The answer may be found in the fact that the second document went on to include a section on territorial “completing claims” between Israel and the Palestinians which the first document did not.
In fact both the first and the second documents leave out reference to our legal rights and instead reduces them to claims based on history. The second document goes further and acknowledges Palestinian claims to the same territory. Thus the notion of “disputed territories”.
In other words, the government chose to avoid the contest between our rights that their claims and instead presented it as one of completing claims. But why even mention the Arab claims at all?
PM Netanyahu plays the same tune. He always refers to our historical claims rather than to our legal rights.
This document, by invoked Art 31(7) of the Interim Agreement of 1995 which precludes “annexation”, also by implication excluded the possibility of alternative solutions as presented by Glick, Kedar, Sherman or Bennett.
This document may have hamstrung future governments from embracing our legal rights or suggesting alternate solutions.