Last updated on: 8/27/2015 2:10:45 PM PST
Should Israel Allow Settlements in the West Bank?
The Levy Commission, appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jan. 2012 to examine the legal status of Israeli building in the West Bank, in a June 21, 2012 report titled "The Levy Commission Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria", available in English from regavim.org, stated:
"Our basic conclusion is that from the point of view of international law, the classical laws of 'occupation' as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis [of its own kind] historic and legal circumstances of Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades.
In addition, the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, regarding transfer of populations, cannot be considered applicable and were never intended to apply to the type of settlement activity carried out by Israel in Judea and Samaria.
Therefore and according to International law, Israelis have the lawful right to settle in Judea and Samaria, and consequently, and the establishment of settlements cannot in and of itself be considered to be illegal."
June 21, 2012 - Levy Commission Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria (891KB)
Israel Harel, Founder of the of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (the Yesha Council), in a May 24, 2015 interview with the Washington Post titled "As Jewish Settlement Turns 40, a Founder Looks Ahead in the West Bank," stated:
"I do not understand this obsession against the settlements... If you are serious and you want this area to last forever as part of Israel, one way or another, you have to build, you have to add thousands of families, you have to assure it... We are rooted here now... Let's say tomorrow we have to divide the territories, God forbid. Nobody is going anywhere. Nobody is going to move us — 380,000 people into little Israel? Where would you put us?"
May 24, 2015 - Israel Harel
Steven Plaut, PhD, Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Haifa (Israel), in a July 11, 2012 article for Frontpage Mag titled "Israeli Settlements: Not Just Legal, But Necessary," wrote:
"Here in brief is the case for Jewish settlements in the West Bank:
- It is in Israel's acute national interest to prevent the West Bank from serving as a terrorist base, from which rockets, mortars and possibly weapons of mass destruction would be launched at Israel... The only way effectively to prevent the conversion of the West Bank into a Hamastan terror base is by maintaining a significant Jewish population there... Since most of the settlers are actually living in Jerusalem suburbs, their presence there also prevents any capitulations by Israel to pressures regarding relinquishing Jerusalem.
- While there are other moral and historic arguments why Israel and Jews have the right to live in the West Bank, the only REAL purpose of 'settlements' is to prevent the emergence of any 'Palestinian state.' No other rationalization or justification is needed."
July 11, 2012 - Steven Plaut, PhD
Mudar Zahran, PhD, Secretary General of the Jordanian Coalition of Opposition, in a July 13, 2012 article for the Gatestone Institute titled "Does Freezing Settlements Help Peace?" available from the Gatestone Institute's website, wrote:
"Evidence on the ground... seems to suggest that freezing settlement activity only fuels radicalism and terrorism, encourages delegitimizing Israel, deprives Palestinians of decent livelihoods and works significantly against achieving the long-sought peace...
The question about the legitimacy or legality of the settlements by itself is puzzling: historically, Judea and Samaria are legitimate parts of Israel... The Balfour Declaration by which the British government confirmed that it favoured 'the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people... and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object,' was incorporated into the Sevres peace treaty with Turkey and the British Mandate for Palestine, which was legally commissioned to Great Britain by the League of Nations, the equivalent of today's United Nations, thus making Israel's control of the entire British Mandate for Palestine — including Judea and Samaria — an internationally legitimate right... It would seem clear, therefore, that the only control over Judea and Samaria that has a foundation in international law is Israel's; thus, Israelis building settlements there would be no different than Americans building housing projects in Massachusetts or Texas.
Further, it is worthwhile to look at what the settlements mean for the Palestinians suffering high unemployment rates in the Palestinian territories: thousands of them work in Israeli settlements... Nevertheless, in 2010, the Palestinian Authority banned its citizens from working in Israeli settlements under the threat of prosecution - an act that has angered the Palestinian public. They have a good reason to be angry: the Palestinian Authority fails to create enough jobs for them while the Israeli settlers offer them wages amounting to double the money they could make working in their hometowns... Freezing settlement activity therefore will only mean fewer jobs for the Palestinians, who will suffer with their families."
July 13, 2012 - Mudar Zahran, PhD
Dani Dayan, MSc, Chief Foreign Envoy of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (the Yesha Council) at the time of the quote, in a June 7, 2013 opinion piece for the Guardian titled "What You Call 'Settlements' Are On Solid Moral Ground," wrote:
"Our communities stand on solid moral ground. Built on vacant land, no settlement stands on the ruins of any Arab village. Naturally, there are civil disputes over land ownership. Some are real, others mere provocations. All should be resolved by courts of law... In Judea and Samaria there is ample room for many Jews, many Palestinians and peaceful coexistence.
Our communities stand on solid moral ground because the right of Jews to live in Shiloh, Hebron or Beth El is inalienable. These sites are the cradles of Jewish civilisation, the birthplace of Hebraic culture. Negating the right of Jews to live in these historic parts of the Jewish homeland would be morally wrong.
Our communities stand on solid moral ground, because they are not – and never were – an impediment to peace... settlements aren't the problem – but rather an integral part of any future solution."
June 7, 2013 - Dani Dayan, MSc
Russell Sitrit-Leibovich, journalist for the Prince Arthur Herald at the time of the quote, in an Oct. 10, 2011 article for the Prince Arthur Herald titled "The Jewish Right to Judea and Samaria," wrote:
"Judea and Samaria are the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, who have been the sole people to maintain a continuous presence there for the past 3000 years. The only period in which Jews did not live in Judea and Samaria was when they were barred from doing so during Jordan's illegal occupation from 1948 to 1967...
The response to those who seek to limit Jews from living in their ancient homeland is to keep on building, settling, and growing. In 1967, there were no Jews living in Judea and Samaria. In 1995, there were 150,000, today there are over 350,000 and G-d willing, soon there will be half a million Jews living in Judea and Samaria. To those who scream out 'occupation,' Israel's leaders must repeat the famous words of Simon the Maccabbee to the Greek King Antiochus: 'We have neither taken foreign land nor seized foreign property, but only the inheritance of our fathers, which at one time had been unjustly taken by our enemies. Now that we have the opportunity, we are firmly holding the inheritance of our fathers.' Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria can no longer be trampled upon."
Oct. 10, 2011 - Russell Sitrit-Leibovich
Mahmoud Abbas, Csc, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), in an Oct 20, 2013 interview with Deutsche Welle titled "Mahmoud Abbas: Negotiations With Israel Aren't At a Deadlock," available from www.dw.com, stated:
"The settlement policy must not continue. Expansion of settlements in Palestinian territory must not continue. Settlers must not take more land. These things create problems and obstacles. They're hindering the peace process and making it more difficult to find solutions."
Oct. 20, 2013 - Mahmoud Abbas, Csc
The Palestine Liberation Organization's Negotiations Affairs Department (PLONAD), in the "Settlements: Our Position" section on their website (accessed Aug. 4, 2015), wrote:
"In addition to being illegal, Israeli settlements in the oPt [Occupied Palestinian Territories] pose the single greatest threat to a two-state solution, and hence, to a just and lasting peace. Settlements, their infrastructure and associated areas of Israeli control grossly reduce the amount and quality of land remaining for our future state and severely undermine its territorial integrity. Under the 'land for peace' formula contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and upon which the peace process is based, Israel is to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 in exchange for full peace and recognition from its neighbors."
Aug. 4, 2015 - Palestine Liberation Organization Negotiations Affairs Department (PLONAD)
The United States Department of State, in a statement delivered by Deputy Department Spokesperson, Mark C. Toner, on July 29, 2015 titled "Israeli Announcement of New Housing Units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem," available from their website, stated:
"The United States continues to view settlements as illegitimate and we strongly oppose steps to advance construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Settlement expansion threatens the two-state solution and calls into question Israel's commitment to a negotiated resolution to the conflict. We continue to urge the Israeli government to refrain from unhelpful actions that undercut the possibility of a two-state solution."
July 29, 2015 - United States Department of State
Lara Friedman, MA, Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now, in an article for their Israel-based sister organization Peace Now, titled "Settlements Are Not an Obstacle to Peace?" available on the Peace Now website (accessed July 28, 2015), wrote:
"Many of the settlements were established with a concrete objective in mind: To block the creation of a future Palestinian state. And this is not just the case in the West Bank: since 1967, Israel has expropriated fully 35 percent of the land in East Jerusalem as 'state land' and used it almost entirely for settlements. Such settlements (and new settlement construction going on today) have the explicit goal of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem - which, in effect, means preventing the two-state solution... If settlements remain in the West Bank, a viable Palestinian state cannot be created. Without the creation of a Palestinian state, the state of Israel is at risk of becoming either a bi-national state and losing its Jewish character, or becoming an international pariah in which a Jewish minority rules over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority."
July 28, 2015 - Lara Friedman, MA
Robert Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process at the time of the quote, in a Mar. 26, 2015 "Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East," available from www.un.org, wrote:
"Illegal settlement activity simply cannot be reconciled with the objective of a negotiated two-state solution and may kill the very possibility of reaching peace on the paradigm of two states for two peoples. I frankly do not know if it is already too late. The minimum conditions of trust cannot be restored without the new Israeli government taking credible steps to freeze settlement activity."
Mar. 26, 2015 - Robert H. Serry
William Hague, MBA, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at the time of the quote, in an Apr. 17, 2014 press release titled "Foreign Secretary Condemns Israeli Steps Towards Settlement Expansion," available from www.gov.uk, stated:
"Settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace, and these decisions [to authorize new settlements] detract from ongoing efforts to deliver a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only path to peace is through negotiations."
Aug. 17, 2014 - William Hague, MBA
Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in a Mar. 25, 2015 report titled, "Implementation of the European Neighborhood Policy in Israel Progress in 2014 and Recommendations for Actions," available from the European External Action Service website, wrote:
"Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make the two-state solution impossible. The EU does not recognise any changes to Israel's pre-1967 borders (including with regard to the Golan Heights, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) other than those agreed by the parties."
Mar. 25, 2015 - Federica Mogherini
The Economist, an English-language weekly newspaper, in a Dec. 8, 2012 article titled "Barriers to Peace," wrote:
"The houses Israel keeps on erecting on Palestinian territory are the main reason why so much of the world has lost sympathy for Israel's cause. The Palestinians have had to watch the Israelis gobbling up the land on which their state is meant to be based. Worse, the latest planned settlement, in a zone known as E-1, threatens to box Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, which they hope to make their capital, into a sealed-off enclave, impeding connections to the rest of the fledgling state of Palestine and bisecting the northern and southern halves. Travel from Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, to Ramallah, the Palestinians' administrative headquarters, would be a nightmare.
Mr Netanyahu may try to justify his defiance over the settlements by pointing to the Palestinians' unilateralism at the UN and the rockets from Gaza, though Israel has more than replied to them. He may also have an eye on the coming Israeli election. But for those, including this newspaper, who still hope for a two-state solution, the new houses are an impassable obstacle."
Dec. 8, 2012 - The Economist
Jeremy Ben-Ami, JD, President of J Street, an American "pro-Israel pro-peace" non-profit organization, in a Sep. 8, 2014 Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times titled "U.S. Should Not Be a Silent Partner to Israeli Settlement Expansion," wrote:
"The United States should no longer be a silent partner to never-ending settlement expansion. As a friend and ally, it owes Israel and Israelis the truth — unrelenting settlement expansion undermines hopes of peace, weakens and isolates Israel, and harms the U.S.-Israel relationship."
Sep. 8, 2014 - Jeremy Ben-Ami, JD