Jack Cohen – Legal Rights in the West Bank & New Approach to Peace
The Jerusalem Post Magazine had an article last Friday entitled “50 years of law versus reality: experts discuss the history and legal status of the West Bank and look to the future,” by Yonah Jeremy Bob, about the legal basis of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, otherwise known for convenience as the “West Bank” (http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/50-years-of-law-versus-reality-493859)
As a result of the Oslo Accords negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993 today the West Bank is divided into two major sections, the so-called Palestine Authority (PA) and the Israeli military occupation, neither of which have recognized international sovereignty. The PA includes about 95% of all the Palestinian Arabs living in the region (not including the Gaza Strip that is controlled by Hamas). The article consists mainly of the journalist balancing opinions expressed by various Israeli experts based largely on Israeli Supreme Court decisions and on internal Israeli political considerations.
Thus the left in Israel, represented by lawyers such as Michael Sfard, regard the “occupation” of the West Bank as an original sin of colonial Israel and like most of Israel’s enemies in Europe and elsewhere wish for Israel to withdraw and give it “back” to the native inhabitants, the Arabs. This view argues that the Israeli settlements are illegal, consistent with the view of most other countries in the world and the UN.
The right, as represented by such international lawyers as Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, tend to take the view that Israel inherited sovereignty of the West Bank from the previous rulers Turkey and the British Mandate, and that Israel has unilaterally not “reabsorbed” the West Bank pending some kind of negotiated deal with the Palestinians. This view argues that the sovereignty of the area has not been changed since the treaties that ended WWI, and that Israel has a perfectly legitimate claim to the whole area and therefore that Israeli settlements are legal.
Of the two opposing views I of course favor the latter. It seems to me that international law trumps national law, even rulings by the Supreme Court, that in any case deal with mostly details of specific cases (such as the ownership of private land) and are also biased by the overwhelmingly liberal-leftist make-up of the majority of Supreme Court Justices. Incidentally, unlike the US or elsewhere, the Supreme Court Justices in Israel choose their own successors, which makes for a very unhealthy permanent bias. Of course, I am not a lawyer, but this article can be dismissed as a collection of opinions and Supreme Court decisions that add up to very little.
As far as the future is concerned, the outcome of who gets sovereignty of Judea and Samaria will depend on historical events, such as future potential negotiations. I hope that something happens that will help to determine this during the course of the current Trump Administration.
A New Approach to Peace?
There was a report in The Jerusalem Post that an aide to Pres. Abbas of the PA had leaked to the media that Pres. Trump has a new approach to the peace process. He is intending to persuade Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to sign a peace agreement with Israel (Egypt and Jordan already have peace agreements) that would result in normal relations and an exchange of Ambassadors and would then leave it to Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a deal based on the Saudi Peace Plan. As it is, this plan is basically the Arab position and is unacceptable to Israel, but with compromises on both sides it is then assumed something can be managed.
There have been three main factors preventing the Palestinians from making any kind of peace agreement with Israel:
- Their insistence that all of the former Palestine Mandate belongs to them and therefore their only strategy is to destroy Israel
- Their sense that they have the huge hinterland of the Arab world in support of them
- The Arab world and to a lesser extent the liberal politically correct Europeans have supported Palestinian aspirations (such as at the UN) against Israel
Now if point 2 is removed from the equation, the Palestinians will realize that they are in fact on their own, no Arab States are going to come to their aid if there is a military confrontation with Israel. This is certainly true of Hamas, that is considered an enemy of Egypt as well as the Saudis. Also, the Palestinians have known this for a long time, that the Arabs have paid lip service to their cause while really not actually supporting them. This was in fact the motivation for the formation of the PLO after the 1967 Six-Day War, when the Arabs States were handily defeated by Israel. Palestinians are not allowed to live in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf States and the funds promised to the PA and Gaza by the other Arabs are very rarely actually paid.
Since the Arab world as a whole is in turmoil, with Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya in civil wars, and the menace of Iran breathing down their necks, the remaining so-called moderate Sunni States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf States, are poised on a precipice. Their only real hope is support from the US and possibly a coalition with Israel. In order to achieve the survival of their regimes they will happily join with Israel, that is no threat to them, and leave the Palestinians to their own fate.
Point 3 is also in play, as the Arabs and other Muslim States and the Europeans become more concerned about confronting radical Islamic terrorism rather than supporting the customary status quo, that includes a Palestinian entity that is at least sympathetic to such terrorism, if not actually directly engaged in it (as is Hamas). Then the Palestinians are forced back to point 1, their own recalcitrance in face of any and every attempt to achieve peace with Israel. This will prove their undoing.