Last updated on: 5/3/2012 2:16:30 PM PST

Are Israeli Settlements in the Palestinian Territories a Violation of International Law?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR), in a Jan. 2004 policy brief entitled "The Legal Status of Israeli Settlements Under IHL," contained the following:

"The Israeli government has been engaged for more than 35 years in the relocation of Israeli nationals to the territories it occupied as a result of the 1967 war through various programs facilitating, supporting, encouraging and enabling the establishment of Israeli settlements in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]. The legality of these settlements has been challenged by the other parties to the conflict...

Israel argues that the Geneva Conventions are not applicable to the OPT, but that even if they were applicable, the settlements would not violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to the Israeli interpretation, Article 49 does not prohibit the voluntary transfer of the population from the occupying state to the occupied territories.

The international community at large and the Palestine Liberation Organization, on the other hand, hold that Israeli settlements in the OPT do violate IHL [International Humanitarian Law], and in particular Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, since Israel's policies of promoting and facilitating the transfer of population have been instrumental in the creation and expansion of Israeli settlements in the OPT. In addition, the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention together prohibit any transfer of the Occupying Power's population, even voluntary transfers, that would alter the demographic composition of the occupied territory..."

Jan. 2004 - Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) 

PRO (yes)

Mahmoud Abbas, PhD, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), in an Apr. 29, 2003 speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), stated:

"Settlements, which violate international law, continue to be the major threat to the creation of a Palestinian state with genuine sovereignty."

Apr. 29, 2003 - Mahmoud Abbas, Csc 

Avi Shlaim, PhD, Professor of International Relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford in a Feb. 22, 2002 Guardian editorial titled "A Betrayal of History," wrote:

"The building of settlements in the occupied territories has always been illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace."

Feb. 22, 2002 - Avi Shlaim, PhD 

The United Nations resolved in the Mar. 1, 1980 Security Council Resolution 465:

"Determines that all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel's policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

Mar. 1, 1980 - United Nations (UN) 

The United Nations resolved in the Mar. 22, 1979 Security Council Resolution 446:

"Determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

Mar. 22, 1979 - United Nations (UN) 

B'Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, in a document titled "International Law," from Land Expropriation and Settlements, stated (accessed 2005):

"The establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military need in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population."

2005 - B'Tselem 

CON (no)

Dore Gold, PhD, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, in a Jan. 16, 2002 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs editorial titled "From 'Occupied Territories' to 'Disputed Territories,'" wrote:

"Israel possesses legal rights with respect to the West Bank and Gaza Strip that appear to be ignored by those international observers who repeat the term 'occupied territories' without any awareness of Israeli territorial claims. Even if Israel only seeks 'secure boundaries' that cover part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, there is a world of difference between a situation in which Israel approaches the international community as a 'foreign occupier' with no territorial rights, and one in which Israel has strong historical rights to the land that were recognized by the main bodies serving as the source of international legitimacy in the previous century."

Jan. 16, 2002 - Dore Gold, PhD 

Eugene W. Rostow, JD, former US Undersecretary of State for political affairs, in an Oct. 21, 1991 New Republic commentary titled "Resolved: Are the Settlements legal? Israeli West Bank Policies," wrote:

"The British Mandate recognized the right of the Jewish people to 'close settlement' in the whole of the Mandated territory. It was provided that local conditions might require Great Britain to 'postpone' or 'withhold' Jewish settlement in what is now Jordan. This was done in 1922. But the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan river, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors."

Oct. 21, 1991 - Eugene W. Rostow, JD 

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), in a 2001 document titled "Israeli Settlements and International Law," takes the following position:

"The settlements themselves are not intended to displace Arab inhabitants, nor do they do so in practice. Repeated charges regarding the illegality of Israeli settlements must therefore be regarded as politically motivated, without foundation in international law... Politically, the West Bank and Gaza Strip is best regarded as territory over which there are competing claims which should be resolved in peace process negotiations."

2001 - Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs