The 'Legal Grounds' for Israeli Settlements

Monday, March 03, 2014 |  Israel Today Staff

While there are absolutely no firm legal grounds for doing so, most of the world today labels Jewish communities built on Palestinian-claimed land in Judea and Samaria as "illegal."

It's a simple concept really. "In the post-modern world we live in, if you repeat a lie often enough, it sadly becomes the truth," stated Dr. Harel Arnon in a recent address to Knesset members in Jerusalem.

Dr. Arnon continued that "one of the lies feeding this wild campaign of incitement that Israel is facing" is the notion that Jews have no right under international law to make their homes in the so-called "West Bank."

Dr. Arnon, a recognized authority on international law, was speaking on behalf of the Legal Grounds Coalition, an umbrella group urging the Israeli government to stop playing its enemies hands by acknowledging some kind of mythical "occupation."

He explained that it is not necessary to even address whether or not Israel is right morally, politically or religiously when speaking of Jewish settlements, because her enemies have hinged everything on international law, so the argument can be concluded there.

Dr. Arnon went on to point out that "international law is relatively abstract...and there is no exact definition as to what constitutes an occupying nation." However, two solid principles can be extracted from international law as relates to this matter:

  1. A nation can only occupy land from another nation;

  2. The occupying nation controls a population that does not have the citizenship of the occupying nation.

So, how what does this mean in relation to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria?

Dr. Arnon expounded:

"When Great Britain received the mandate over Palestine, including Transjordan, it received it for one purpose only - to establish a Jewish national home. Afterwards, in 1948, Britain returned the mandate to the UN, which had inherited the authority of the League of Nations, and left the territory of Palestine, which is now the State of Israel and Judea and Samaria. In this territory...a legal vacuum was formed, a territory without a sovereign.

"Israel stood on the borders of 1948 and declared its independence. After, Jordan...unlawfully invaded and annexed Judea and Samaria. This action was indisputably unlawful, and even the Arab League condemned Jordan for doing it.

"In 1967, Israel returned to Judea and Samaria, got rid of the illegal Jordanian occupation, and took control. ...This prompted scholars of international law to coin the phrase 'terra nullius', meaning a territory without a sovereign, or a vacuum territory. Judea and Samaria is a territory over which no country has legal sovereignty, not even Israel, but Israel holds it.

"In other words, when we want to examine the question of whether or not Israel is occupying Judea and Samaria, we must address the fact that Israel took Judea and Samaria from someone who was there illegally, and therefore Israel cannot be seen as an occupier...the laws of occupation do not apply to Judea and Samaria."

In conclusion, Dr. Arnon pointed out that the Geneva Conventions are simply not applicable to a situation in which "Israeli citizens voluntarily settle in a territory with no other legal sovereign."

These truths notwithstanding, Dr. Arnon acknowledged that most of the world had adopted the position that Israel is an occupying power. However, since these claims, and the world's extra-judicial acceptance of them, are in no way legally binding, "Israel does not have to accept an argument with which it does not agree."

At the very least, Dr. Arnon encouraged those listening that "in an era in which when you repeat a lie often enough it is accepted as truth, we must hope and believe that if we repeat [the truth] again and again there is a chance people will be convinced by the simple truth."

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