[Published 24 November 2010]
The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union is just one of many organizations and political institutions that have been caught up in the rhetoric of their own statements leading them to repeat ad infinitum the false claim that Israeli settlements established in the West Bank during the last 43 years are illegal in international law and an obstacle to peace.
Catherine Ashton - the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy recalled for the benefit of some 30 Foreign Ministers or Foreign Ministry officials over lunch on 22 November that the:
“the settlements are illegal under international law, are an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.”
The minutes of that luncheon indicate not one of those enjoying the gastronomic treats provided for them took the slightest exception to Ms Ashton’s statement. It appears that her remarks were consumed with relish along with the wine and other goodies savoured on this occasion.
Her spurious claims need to be rejected in the most clear and unambiguous terms for the following reasons:
1. Jewish settlements in the West Bank are legal under article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter subject to the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities living there not being prejudiced.
2. 96% of the non-Jewish communities living in the West Bank have their civil and legal rights administered and regulated by the Palestinian Authority - not Israel.
3. The absence of any Jewish settlements in the West Bank between 1948-1967 - after Jews previously living there had been driven out of their homes in 1947 by the Jordanian army - did not lead to peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
4. Offers to cede Jewish claims to more than 90% of the West Bank made by Israel in 2001 and 2008 in order to achieve the European Union’s desired two-state solution - the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan - were rebuffed by the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League.
5. The European Union two-state solution could have been achieved at any time between 1948 - 1967 by the stroke of an Arab League pen. Seeking 40 years later what was rejected during that 19 year period - amounts in effect to a legal estoppel - which Israel cannot be held responsible to rectify in 2010.
6. A different kind of two-state solution to that being pushed by the European Union is and can be achieved very easily by Israel and Jordan simply redrawing the international boundary that currently separates them so as to restore as far as is now possible the status quo that existed at 5 June 1967.
Ms Ashton also jogged the munching participants’ memories of the “Council’s December 2009 conclusions” - which contained the following similar statement:
“The Council reiterates that settlements, the separation barrier where built on occupied land, demolition of homes and evictions are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible“
Again the Council seemed to have then conveniently overlooked the following further facts:
1. The West Bank is not “occupied land”. It is “no man’s land” in international law. Sovereignty still remains to be allocated there in accordance with the terms of the Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Charter which preserves the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the West Bank and to close settlement by Jews on State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
2. Whilst construction of the settlement barrier within the West Bank has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion - such opinion is binding on no-one. That decision was also made without the Court even considering the legal import of Article 6 of the Mandate and article 80 of the UN Charter. Indeed the United Nations when seeking that advisory opinion failed to include any mention of the Mandate or the provisions of its own Charter in the documents it submitted to the Court to rule on. The European Union needs to take careful note of the following view expressed by Justice El-Araby in that case:
“The point of departure, or one can say in legal jargon, the critical date, is the League of Nations Mandate which was entrusted to Great Britain"
Proceeding to make policy decisions not based on this starting point has led the European Union into a whirlpool of distortion and self-deception.
3. Demolition of homes - where they have occurred - has been due to illegal unauthorised construction or in consequence of proven connection with terrorist attacks in accordance with the existing Mandate laws still operative in the West Bank at the time of its loss by Jordan to Israel in 1967.
4. Evictions - where they have occurred - have been taken after Court declarations finding such occupation to have been illegal.
The Foreign Affairs Council appears to be totally lacking in any basic understanding of the above facts that have resulted in the 130 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs still remaining unresolved .
The Council has gone off on a tangent of its own sowing the seeds of confusion and giving oxygen to enable the conflict to be maintained by the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority in an increasingly intransigent and confrontational manner.
One can only hope that a more reasoned and fairer stance will be adopted by the European Union to enable it to become an impartial and influential player in seeking an end to the conflict.
Until that occurs one can only conclude that the European Union will continue to give a new meaning to the term “Brussels sprout” as being “the continued spreading of false and misleading information regarding the facts surrounding the conflict in the Middle East and the means by which it can be resolved.”