It’s a rare pleasure to read a forthright statement regarding the legality of settlements from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs — on their website and reproduced by IMRA — and so I want to feature this.
The hype is so misleading — not just from Palestinians themselves but also from left wing Israelis — that it’s extremely important to set the record straight. It’s easy even for persons of good will to begin, after a time, to wonder if Israel is a "stumbling block to peace."
"Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legal both under international law and the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Claims to the contrary are mere attempts to distort the law for political purposes…
"The Palestinians often claim that settlement activity is illegal and call on Israel to dismantle every settlement. In effect, they are demanding that every Jew leave the West Bank, a form of ethnic cleansing. By contrast, within Israel, Arabs and Jews live side-by-side; indeed, Israeli Arabs, who account for approximately 20% of Israel’s population, are citizens of Israel with equal rights.
"The Palestinian call to remove all Jewish presence from the disputed territories is not only discriminatory and morally reprehensible; it has no basis either in law or in the agreements between Israel and the
"The various agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians since 1993 contain no prohibitions on the building or expansion of settlements. On the contrary, they specifically provide that the issue of settlements is reserved for permanent status negotiations, which are to take place in the concluding stage of the peace talks. The parties expressly agreed that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction or control over settlements or Israelis, pending the conclusion of a permanent status agreement.
"It has been charged that the provision contained in the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement prohibiting unilateral steps that alter the status of the West Bank implies a ban on settlement activity. This position is disingenuous. The prohibition on unilateral measures was designed to ensure that neither side take steps that would change the legal status of this territory (such as by annexation or a unilateral declaration of statehood), pending the outcome of permanent status talks. The building of homes has no effect on the final permanent status of the area as a whole. Were this prohibition to be applied to building, it would lead to the unreasonable interpretation that neither side is permitted to build houses to accommodate the needs of their respective communities.
"As the Israeli claim to these territories is legally valid, it is just as legitimate for Israelis to build their communities as it is for the Palestinians to build theirs. Yet in the spirit of compromise, successive Israeli governments have indicated their willingness to negotiate the issue and have adopted a voluntary freeze on the building of new settlements as a confidence-building measure."
On the Palestinian side , we have continuing intransigence, coupled with attempts to place all onus for lack of "peace" on Israel.
Yesterday Khaled Abu Toameh reported in the Post that Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah were saying that Israel was demanding that a future Palestinian state be demilitarized. And thus, they say, prospects for a negotiated peace have dwindled. Apparently (I haven’t heard it from this side), Israel will want the right to operate inside a future state to foil terrorism or any military offensive from the east.
The PA also objected to Israeli security operations, which, they say interfere with their ability to consolidate their power. What power? Nothing stands between them and Hamas in Judea and Samaria but the IDF.
And here we have it, with regard to settlements: one PA official said that Israel’s talk about…retaining control of Ma’aleh Adumim [that was Olmert’s recent statement] and other settlement blocs "proves that Israel is not working towards achieving a two-state solution…Our position remains unchanged. There will never be peace without a Palestinian state in the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem. We insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders (sic — those are armistice lines, not borders).
Meanwhile PA negotiator Abed Rabbo has been sent to Washington to meet with officials before Bush travels, where, it is said, he will demand that Bush call for an end to construction in all settlements, including in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
Demand? In all of my life I’ve never encountered people with the brazen effrontery that the Palestinians have.
The IDF, working with the Shin Bet , today completed a four day operation in Nablus (Shechem) during which more than 20 were arrested, 19 with Al Aksa Brigades (of Fatah).
This is some of what they found:
A rocket manufacturing lab. Though the rockets were not operational this underlined the critical necessity for continued intense operations in the area.
A ready-to-use suicide belt.
And…two officers of the Palestinian Authority’s Military Intelligence Force for allegedly helping the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
But does PA prime minister Fayyad hang his head in shame at this information? Of course not! In a radio interview he said, "The current Israeli operation aims to heat up the atmosphere before Bush’s visit. They are trying to sabotage the Palestinian Authority’s successes in the city."
Oh. A joke. I wrote back a while ago about the "successes" of the forces deployed in Nablus. They had no orders to take on gunmen — especially not the gunmen of Al Aksa. They climbed up on roofs and walked around. And they arrested people who stole olive oil or shot in the air during weddings.
If this weren’t serious business it would be very very funny indeed. There is no line between PA security forces and Al Aksa terrorists.