Settlements: legality and policies

This document begins with two main parts, extracts fromand three supplements, discussing
After these, there are several miscellaneous references and articles
that try to bring the settlement picture up to date.

Each book excerpt begins with a green start line
and ends with a red end line.
As usual, links, comments, and emphasis (except where noted otherwise)
have been added by me.

Paul Findley’s Deliberate Deceptions

Paul Findley, in his seminal 1993 book
Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the facts about the U.S.-Israeli relationship,
discusses in its
the extent to which
the Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territory
are compliant with international law and American policies.

Each chapter begins with an introduction/summary,
followed by statements by leading Zionists that Findley considers fallacious,
paired with reasons why he considers them fallacious.

Emphasis, links, and some comments have been added.

Chapter 23: Jewish Settlements

[DD, pages 178–183]

Jewish settlements established
on the land of Palestinians in the occupied territories
pose a serious impediment to the search for peace.
The charter of the United Nations
specifically outlaws
the acquisition of territory by force,

the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention
Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War
specifically prohibits
an occupying power from transferring part of its own population
to the territory it occupies.

Israel has routinely violated both of these international covenants.
Since 1967 it has
forcefully occupied Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank,
the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip [until 2005]

and at the same time has
continued to establish Jewish settlements in all of these territories.

The United States shares equal guilt with Israel because
it has colluded with Israel
in the military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
Although U.S. policy officially opposes Jewish settlements,
no effort has ever been made
to withhold the $3 billion in annual U.S. economic and military aid to Israel
in order to make the Jewish state stop its colonization of the occupied territories.
Without U.S. aid, Israel would not have the resources
to establish and maintain settlements or to continue its military occupation.

“Our right to [the occupied] land is indisputable.”

Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister, 1974

Until the strongly pro-Israel Reagan presidency,
every U.S. administration, Democratic and Republican,
had challenged Israel’s claim to the territories occupied in 1967,
calling the occupation a violation ofand therefore illegal.
The United Nations has taken the same position.
[For general background,
see Wikipedia articles
“Status of territories captured by Israel” and
“International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict”,
while for a hard-core Zionist position,
see this CAMERA article.]

U.S. policy was first voiced by
President Richard Nixon’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,
Charles W. Yost.
He said in 1969,
“The part of Jerusalem that came under the control of Israel in the June war,
like other areas occupied by Israel,
is occupied territory
and hence subject to the provisions of international law
governing the rights and obligations of an occupying power.”

President Gerald Ford’s U.S ambassador to the United Nations,
William W. Scranton,
declared in the Security Council on 1976-03-23 that
  • Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories were illegal, and

  • its claim to all of Jerusalem was void.
Said Scranton (emphasis is added):

“My government believes that international law sets the appropriate standards
[governing Israel’s settlements].
An occupier must maintain the occupied areas
as intact and unaltered as possible,
without interfering with the customary life of the area, and
any changes must be necessitated by the immediate needs of the occupation
and be consistent with international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention speaks directly to the issue of population transfer in Article 49:
The occupying power shall not deport or transfer
parts of its own civilian population
into the territory it occupies.
Clearly then substantial resettlement of the Israeli civilian population
in occupied territories, including East Jerusalem,
is illegal under the convention
cannot be considered to have prejudged the outcome of future negotiations
between the parties or the location of the borders of states of the Middle East.
Indeed, the presence of these settlements is seen by my government
as an obstacle to the success of the negotiations
for a just and final peace between Israel and its neighbors.”

The speech brought an official protest from Israel.
The State Department responded by noting that
Scranton was merely restating long-standing U.S. policy.

It was the Carter administration that issued the most frequent statements
on U.S. opposition to settlements.
Both President Jimmy Carter and his secretary of state, Cyrus Vance,
spoke out publicly declaring Israel’s settlements illegal.
On 1978-04-21 State Department legal advisor Herbert Hansell
officially rendered Washington’s legal position,
saying settlements were “inconsistent with international law.”
The opinion also asserted that
the Fourth Geneva convention applied to the West Bank and Gaza,
despite Israeli claims that it did not
because sovereignty over those areas was in dispute.

It was not until Ronald Reagan’s presidency starting in 1981 that
U.S. policy suddenly was muted by his astonishing declaration on 1981-02-02 that
I disagreed when the previous administration
referred to [Israeli settlements] as illegal—
they’re not illegal.
[In an endnote Findley adds:
Unconfirmed rumors say Reagan made the statement to redeem a pledge given to Israel’s supporters during the 1980 presidential campaign.]

Just what the legal status of the settlements was in Reagan’s policy
was never clear.
But as time passed it became obvious to him that
they were a major “obstacle to peace,” as he repeatedly said, and that
Israel’s “rush” to establish settlements was “unnecessarily provocative.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the world continued to consider them illegal and said so.
The European Community has consistently maintained that
“Jewish settlements in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967,
including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law” and that
Israel’s settlement policy presented “a growing obstacle to peace in the region.”

After Reagan had issued his “not illegal” declaration,
[the first] President George Bush chose not to turn back the clock
during his own presidency.
But Bush administration officials implied that the administration considered settlements not only obstacles to peace but illegal as well.
As Secretary of State James Baker noted in 1991,
“we used to characterize [Israeli settlements] as illegal [but]
we now moderately characterize [them] as an obstacle to peace.”

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was guided by another philosophy.
Shortly after his defeat for reelection in 1992, Shamir said:
The Likud never concealed its intention
to demand sovereignty over Judea and Samaria
during the negotiations for their final status.
It implemented the principle that
the right of the Jews to settle in all parts of Eretz Yisrael
would be upheld during the entire course of negotiations.
The only guarantee against Arab sovereignty west of the Jordan River
is Jewish urban and rural settlement throughout Judea and Samaria.

“The Jewish people [have a] right to settle
the occupied territories.”

Menachem Begin, Israeli prime minister, 1980

Jews enjoy no “right” to establish settlements in the occupied territories,
as both the United States and the United Nations have repeatedly warned.
Yet Israel has defied world opinion
by colonizing the occupied territories almost from the day the 1967 war ended.
Less than three weeks later, on June 27,
Israel had effectively annexed Arab East Jerusalem, and on July 15
it established the first Israeli settlement in the territories—
Kibbutz Merom Hagolan near Quneitra on the Golan Heights.

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol waited until September 24
before he made the first public announcement of Israel’s settlement plans,
which he said would be limited.
Even this mild statement brought criticism from the United States,
which said Eshkol’s announcement
amounted to a change in Israel’s previous position against settlements.
The U.S. statement also said that
Israel had failed to notify Washington of the change.
In amplifying the statement,
a State Department spokesman said the new Israeli policy conflicted with
President Johnson’s June 19 declaration of
U.S. support of territorial integrity throughout the region.

The criticism was the second public rebuke of Israel by Washington in four days.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg
had warned that peace could not be served
“if military success blinds a member state to the fact that
its neighbors have rights and interests of their own.”
Nonetheless, by the end of 1967 Israel had established Jewish settlements
in all the occupied lands of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
Israel’s establishment of settlements has proceeded at an accelerating pace
since 1967.

Prior to 1948 there had been only
seven Jewish communities in the lands occupied in 1967, and
Jewish land ownership was at most 1 percent in those areas.
A quarter century later, in May 1992, the State Department reported there were 129,000 Jews in Arab East Jerusalem (compared with 155,000 Palestinians);
97,000 Jews in 180 settlements in the West Bank
with half of the land under exclusive Jewish control;
3,600 in 20 settlements in the Gaza Strip; and
14,000 in 30 settlements in the Golan Heights.
According to another report,
Israel during that quarter century had confiscated
or otherwise alienated from Palestinian ownership
55 percent of the land of the West Bank,
42 percent of the Gaza Strip, and
all of the Golan Heights,
which it had annexed along with Arab East Jerusalem.
All of the water resources were under Israeli control and
30 percent of the water in the West Bank was diverted to Israel or its settlers.

In addition,
Jewish ultranationalists such as members of Ateret Kohanim,
which seeks to take over
the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in the Old City of Jerusalem,
were aggressively settling within the Old City.
In 1992, encouraged by the Shamir government,
some 600 Jewish settlers, mainly seminary students,
were living in some 55 sites
outside the traditional boundaries of the Old City’s Jewish quarter—
in the Christian, Armenian, and Muslim quarters.

Shamir’s housing minister, Ariel Sharon, a leader of the far right,
acquired an apartment in the Muslim quarter in 1987.
Sharon has said:
We have set a goal for ourselves of
not leaving one neighborhood in East Jerusalem without Jews.
This is the only thing that can assure
a united city under Israeli sovereignty.

Chapter 6: UN Resolution 242

[DD, pages 42–47]

The passage of Resolution 242 by the UN Security Council on 1967-11-22
was a major diplomatic achievement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It emphasized
“the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”
and contained the formula that has since underlain all peace initiatives—
land for peace.
In exchange for withdrawing from Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian territory
captured in the 1967 war,
Israel was promised peace by the Arab states.

“[N]either this international document
[Israel’s 1949 armistice with Jordan]
nor Resolution 242
forms an obstacle to the Jewish People’s basic claim
that the Land of Israel belongs by right to the Jewish People.”

Menachem Begin, Israeli prime minister, 1977

A major confrontation
on the interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242
erupted between the United States and Israel
after Menachem Begin came to power in 1977.
Although previous Israeli governments
accepted the applicability of the resolution to all territories—
the Sinai, the West Bank, including Arab East Jerusalem,
Gaza, and the Golan Heights
Begin argued that the resolution did not apply
to Jordan’s West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as he insisted on calling it.
When Begin first declared publicly that
Resolution 242 did not negate Israel’s claim to the West Bank,
the U.S. Department of State immediately responded by declaring publicly:
We consider that this resolution means
withdrawal on all three fronts in the Middle East dispute ....
This means no territories—including the West Bank—
are automatically excluded from the items to be negotiated.

A 1978 State Department study of the issue,
made after Begin continued to put forward his unique interpretation,
We have researched the records of the public and private negotiations leading up to adoption of Resolution 242,
and the explanations of vote at its adoption, and
we conclude that there is no room for doubt that
members of the Council, and Israel ...
shared a common core of understanding that
the principle of withdrawal was applicable to all three fronts.

This stand was later authoritatively endorsed by the resolution’s author,
Lord Caradon of Great Britain, who wrote:
It was from the occupied territories
that the Resolution called for withdrawal.
The test was which territories were occupied.
That was a test not possibly subject to debate.
As a matter of plain fact East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan, and Sinai were occupied in the 1967 conflict;
it was on withdrawal from occupied territories
that the Resolution insisted.

U.S. officials have reiterated this position many times.
In June 1977, the Carter administration released a paper
on its views of the elements of a comprehensive peace.
The paper pointedly said that Israel,
within the terms of Resolution 242,
in return for this ... peace,
clearly should withdraw from occupied territories.
We consider that this resolution means withdrawal on all three fronts—
that is, Sinai, Golan, West Bank-Gaza ....
[N]o territories, including the West Bank,
are automatically excluded from the items to be negotiated.
More than a decade later, Secretary of State George Shultz said:
“The provisions of Resolution 242 apply to all fronts.”

“[UN Resolution 242] speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.”

Arthur Goldberg, [former] U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 1973

There was deliberate ambiguity in Resolution 242.
[For who put that “deliberate ambiguity” into 242, see this.]
It occurs in the withdrawal phrase,
which says “from territories” instead of “the” or “all” territories.
The point of the phrase was to allow for minor border adjustments
that would rectify the zigzag lines left by the end of fighting in 1948.
Arab East Jerusalem was not specifically mentioned in the resolution
but was considered by all countries except Israel
as included in the perambulatory paragraph that emphasized
“the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”

Despite the ambiguity,
King Hussein of Jordan was repeatedly assured by high-ranking U.S. officials
in the days before passage of the resolution that
only small alterations in territory were envisioned and that
any change would be reciprocal.
As Secretary of State Dean Rusk explained to Hussein on 1967-11-06,
sixteen days before passage of the resolution:
[T]he United States was prepared to support return of
a substantial part of the West Bank to Jordan with boundary adjustments,
and would use its influence to obtain compensation to Jordan
for any territory it was required to give up.
By way of illustration, Rusk told Hussein that
if Jordan gave up an awkward bulge of territory between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
known as the Latrun Salient,
the United States would then use its diplomatic and political influence
to obtain in compensation access for Jordan
to a Mediterranean port in Israel.
Hussein received similar assurances from President Johnson
and U.S. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg.
[Henry Kissinger writes on page 345 of White House Years (emphasis added):
Jordan’s acquiescence in Resolution 242 had been obtained in 1967
by the promise of our United Nations Ambassador Arthur Goldberg
that under its terms we would work
for the return of the West Bank to Jordan
with minor boundary rectifications and
that we were prepared to use our influence
to obtain a role for Jordan in Jerusalem.
Once again, our promises to the Arabs were worthless.]

All administrations since Johnson’s
have repeated similar assurance to King Hussein.
For instance, in January 1983 Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz,
wrote in a letter to Hussein that
the President believes, consistent with Resolution 242,
that territory should not be acquired by war.
He believes, as well, however, that
Resolution 242 does permit changes
in the boundaries which existed prior to June 1967
but only where such changes are agreed between the parties.
Shultz added that
the “United States considers [Arab] East Jerusalem
part of the occupied territories.”

It was only under the Bush [41] administration that
the United States began backing its words supporting the resolution
with actions.

In early 1992, Bush refused to grant Israel $10 billion in loan guarantees
unless it promised to impose a total freeze
on all settlement activity in the occupied territories
and negotiate on the basis of Resolution 242.
However, in the midst of the 1992 presidential campaign
and the coming to power of Yitzhak Rabin,
Bush relented and granted the guarantees, dropping nearly all conditions.

[The next, and last, section of the chapter should probably be skipped,
except by those really interested in this subject.]

“[UN Resolution 242] required negotiations
between the parties.”

Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister, 1979

There was no mention of direct negotiations in the resolution
or of the need for negotiations preceding Israel’s withdrawal.

In the resolution’s words, it merely
requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative
to proceed to the Middle East
to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned
in order to promote agreement and
assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement
in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution.

U.S. officials privately agreed with Israel that
negotiations would have to precede Israel’s withdrawal
from the territories captured in the war.
But what they thought was meant by negotiations
was far different from Israel’s later contention.

The U.S. officials naively thought that once the UN resolution was adopted
only technical and brief negotiations would be needed
between Israel and its Arab neighbors
to work out the details of Israeli withdrawal.
They assured the Arabs that this would be the case,
and the Arabs henceforth maintained that
Israel had to withdraw without conditions.
But Israel contended that negotiations would have to cover
all the aspects of both withdrawal and peace,
including disposition not only of Palestinian refugees
but of Jewish refugees from Arab countries as well.

It was on the specific issue of prior negotiations that
Israel stalled enactment of the resolution for the next six years.
The United States repeatedly urged Israel
to withdraw without detailed negotiations
but Israel refused, insisting on direct negotiations.
On 1970-06-09 Secretary of State William Rogers criticized Israel’s stand
by saying:
Israel should make clear
that it accepts the principle of withdrawal
as laid down in the November 1967 Security Council resolution and
that it will no longer insist on the formula of
‘direct negotiations without preconditions.’
But Israel refused.

War broke out in 1973 as Egypt and Syria sought to break the diplomatic logjam
by military assault on Arab territory held by Israel.
The question of prior negotiations was finally settled at the end of the 1973 war
with passage of UN Resolution 338, which said that
Negotiations will start between the parties concerned
under appropriate auspices
aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.
However, having won that point,
Israel then began insisting that withdrawal did not mean on all fronts.
It maintains that unique interpretation of Resolution 242 to this day.

George Ball’s The Passionate Attachment

George Ball and his son Douglas, in their book
The Passionate Attachment:
America’s Involvement With Israel, 1947 to [1992]
give a thorough exploration of the topic mentioned in the subtitle,
especially its diplomatic aspects.
Having held the position of undersecretary of state,
among many other diplomatic posts,
George Ball was eminently qualified to explore this topic.

Below, from the green start line to the red end line,
is their discussion of the legality, or lack thereof, of Israel’s settlements .
Emphasis and links have been added, and minor reformatting has been done.

[PA, pages 182–187]

The Illegality of Israel’s Conduct in the Occupied Areas

Although disputed by the Israelis and their American protagonists,
there is little doubt that Israel’s settlements program
and other aspects of its conduct in the occupied territories
violate international law.

Israel behaves as though it had acquired sovereignty over the territories,
but in fact, under established international law,
all that Israel achieved by military conquest
(which in turn has accounted for more than half the territory it now governs)
was the status of “belligerent occupant.”
A belligerent occupant possesses only
a temporary and de facto authority to protect its security interests, and
it is subject to various substantive limitations
designed to protect the inhabitants.

We make this point to emphasize
Israel’s dubious status in the Occupied Territories and
the conditions which treaties and statutory law have now imposed on it.
The fact that under such law Israel is merely a “belligerent occupant”
and therefore subject to severe limitations
is wholly rejected in action if not in theory by the Israeli government
[not to mention, as evidenced by their acts of commission and omission,
by America’s political and media elite]
In fact, at the time of the passage of Resolution 242,
the Israeli negotiator Abba Eban dismissed with scorn
that provision of the preamble to the resolution
which reaffirms the proposition that
the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible,
in accordance with

The relevant treaties and conventions areThe Fourth Geneva Convention,
“Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War,”
puts responsibility for its enforcement on all of the signatories
(including the United States) by the following language:
The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect
for the present Convention in all circumstances.

The provision “to respect” means to abide by a Convention;
the provision “to ensure respect,” added in 1949, means that
if one state is in violation, others are also in violation
unless they take energetic measures to compel the erring state to comply.
Consequently, if Israel violates the Convention,
other signatory states are accessories after the fact,
unless they stop such practices.
Although the United States has declared
many Israeli practices unlawful or a violation of Palestinian human rights,
it has utterly neglected its duty to stop these criminal acts
or to allow the Security Council to do so.

The most directly pertinent violations by Israel
of the Fourth Geneva Convention fall into the following categories.

Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention
  1. Implanting of settlements in the occupied areas

  2. Destruction of private property and humiliation of residents

  3. Interference with religious rights

  4. Attacks on hospitals and hospital personnel

  5. Physical violence against protected persons

  6. Collective and guilt-by-association punishment

  7. Unjustifiable destruction of personal property

  8. Seizure and plunder of private property

  9. Unlawful tax collections

  10. Unlawful deportations

  11. Closing of schools in the occupied areas

  12. Deprivation of procedural and substantive due process of law

  13. Commission of aggressive annexations

  14. Specification of grave breaches

1. Implanting of settlements in the occupied areas
While an occupying power is prohibited
from transferring part of its own civilian population
into the territory it occupies,
Israel routinely violates both
the Hague Convention IV of 1907 and
the Geneva Convention IV of 1949
in that regard.

Just before he left office, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared that
Arab governments must convince Israel and the world community
that they have abandoned the idea of destroying Israel.
But equally,
Israel must persuade its Arab neighbors and the world community
that Israel has no expansionist designs on their territory.

The Nixon administration first referred to the settlements program
in a debate in the UN Security Council in September 1971
which resulted in Resolution 298.
At the time the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, George H. W. Bush, stated:
We regret Israel’s failure
to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention,
as well as its actions
which are contrary to the letter and spirit of this convention.

During the Ford administration,
America’s ambassador to the United Nations, William Scranton,
told the Security Council in March 1976 that
substantial resettlement of the Israeli civilian population
in Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem,
is illegal under the Convention
and cannot be considered to have prejudged
the outcome of future negotiations between the parties
on the locations of the borders of states in the Middle East.
Indeed, the presence of these settlements
is seen by my government as an obstacle
to the success of the negotiations
for a just and final peace between Israel and its neighbors.

The applicability of these conventions to the Occupied Areas
became an established part of the United States policy on 1979-04-21
when the then legal advisor of the State Department, Herbert J. Hansell,
issued an opinion
[this opinion is summarized, excerpted, and discussed at length here]
finding that
the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories [the West Bank and Gaza] is inconsistent with international law.
[The emphasis and internal bracketed comment were added by the Balls.]
U.S. characterization of the settlements as “illegal” was reaffirmed
by another respected lawyer, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance,
in his testimony before Congress on 1980-03-21, where he said:
U.S. policy toward the establishment of Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories
is unequivocal and has long been a matter of public record.
We consider it to be contrary to international law
and an impediment to the successful conclusion of the Middle East peace process....

Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention
is, in my judgement, and
has been in the judgement of each of the legal advisors of the State Department for many, many years,
to be ...
that settlements are illegal and
that the Convention applies to the territories.

In 1981, Hansell’s carefully researched opinion
was abruptly overruled by a nonlawyer, Ronald Reagan,
who announced with the total confidence of ignorance
that the settlements were legal.
In Reagan’s view, they were simply an “obstacle to peace.”
Subsequently, the Bush [41] administration has waffled
on whether the settlements are illegal or not.
Given its demands for an end to settlements based only on diplomatic grounds,
the underlying basis of American policy in this area
has become hopelessly muddled.

[The above charge, based on Israel’s undeniable behavior,
seems to me to be irrefutable.
The remaining charges, given below, can be quarreled with, in theory,
on two grounds:
that they took place prior to 1992 and are not being continued, and
that they were provoked by the Palestinians.
I personally do not have the knowledge to sort out who is right.
But I have enough respect for the judgment and impartiality of the Balls
(surely they have less personal involvement than Jews and Zionists do)
that I think their charges are worthy of consideration, even today.
At the very least, they provide a useful framework and outline
for why so much of the world outside of Israel and the United States
considers that Israel has done a grave injustice to the Palestinians.]

2. Destruction of private property and humiliation of residents
The IDF routinely breaks into Palestinian homes, often during the night,
humiliating the residents, stealing and willfully destroying their property.
Such acts are illegal under Hague Regulations, Articles 46(1) and 47,
and Article 33(2) of the Geneva IV Convention.

3. Interference with religious rights
Disrupting religious services of the occupied population
is a direct violation of Hague Regulations 46(1)
and of Articles 33(2) of the Geneva IV Convention.
The Government of Israel routinely interferes with religious observances
and has, from time to time,
threatened to ban or banned Moslem worshipers from the Temple Mount mosques.

4. Attacks on hospitals and hospital personnel
During disorders,
Israeli occupying forces invade hospital and medical facilities,
arresting and removing seriously wounded people,
harassing medical personnel, and
destroying hospital equipment.
Such acts are forbidden under Articles 18(1) and 20 of the Geneva IV Convention.

5. Physical violence against protected persons
“Murder, torture, corporal punishments” of any civilian population
are prohibited by Article 31 of the Geneva IV Convention.
Such activities on the part of the Israeli authorities,
both before and during the [First] Intifada,
have been repeatedly reported.

6. Collective and guilt-by-association punishment
“Collective penalties, including curfews,
and likewise all measures of intimidation”
are prohibited under Article 33(1).
Because no protected person may be punished for an offense
he or she has not personally committed,
this provision clearly rules out the punishment
of persons related to the accused.
Similarly, reprisals against the inhabitants of Occupied Areas
(who under the terms of the Convention are protected persons)
are expressly forbidden under Article 33(3).
Yet the Israelis routinely impose curfews
and destroy or seal the houses of suspects or their relatives
even before the arrested person has been found guilty of any crime,
or indeed without any criminal finding whatsoever.

7. Unjustifiable destruction of personal property
An occupying power is specifically prohibited
by the Geneva IV Convention, Article 6,
from destroying real or personal property owned by private persons or others.
Israeli forces have destroyed hundreds of homes and farmers’ crops
without any bona fide justification, falsely asserting military necessity.
The Israeli authorities systematically laid waste
to the entire Syrian city of Quneitra in 1974 in a time of truce,
when no hostilities were in progress.

8. Seizure and plunder of private property
The seizure of private property is also prohibited to the occupying power
by Geneva Convention IV, Article 56.
Plundering is expressly forbidden by the Hague Convention IV, Article 47.
Israel has plundered over half the land in the West Bank from private persons
and plundered the homes of Quneitra’s inhabitants.

9. Unlawful tax collections
Articles 49 and 50 of the Geneva Convention IV of 1949 relating to civilians
prohibit the levying of taxes in an occupied territory and
the diversion of such funds to the treasury of the occupying power.
From 1967 to 1987, Israel routinely extracted each year
$80 to $100 million more from the Occupied Territories
than it expended in them.
[And now, in 2006,
Israel still feels that it has the right to withhold the taxes it collects.
What this calls to mind is “taxation without representation.”]

10. Unlawful deportations
Deportations of protected persons, or
the imprisonment of such persons in the territory of the occupying power,
are explicitly forbidden under Geneva IV, Articles 49(1) and 76.
The only exception permitted is the temporary removal of civilians
to ensure their safety during combat operations.
Nevertheless, with a perversity worth of Dicken’s Seth Pecksniff,
Israel’s High Court of Justice has refused to issue a judgment
based on this protocol because it has not
“entered the canon of Israeli law via legislation by the Knesset.”
Israel’s ratification of the Geneva Conventions
makes this provision binding on Israel whether the Knesset says so or not.

11. Closing of schools in the occupied areas
Israel’s action in closing schools in the Occupied Areas violates Article 59(1),
which requires the military occupant
to “facilitate the proper working” of such institutions.

12. Deprivation of procedural and substantive due process of law
Under Article 66,
civilians under occupation are entitled to trial
by “properly constituted, non-political military courts,” and
under Article 72(8)
they are entitled to the assistance of a “qualified advocate or counsel.”
They are also entitled to a specific bill of particulars
regarding the charges against them (Article 71[3]).
But the Israeli military authorities have routinely denied trial
or proper legal assistance to civilians in the Occupied Areas.
The defense cannot ascertain and answer specific charges
because the Israeli authorities declare the evidence
to be a matter of “state security.”

13. Commission of aggressive annexations
When the Axis powers used their domestic laws
to annex portions of the territories they occupied,
the Nuremberg Tribunal held such annexations illegal.
The same principle and the pertinent Security Council resolutions
apply to Israel’s purported annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and 1980
and of the Golan Heights in 1981.

14. Specification of grave breaches
Article 51 of the First Geneva Convention (which applies to all four conventions) states:
Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates
shall be those involving any of the following acts,
if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention:
  • willful killing,

  • torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments,

  • willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and

  • extensive destruction and appropriation of property,
    not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.
The horrible suffering imposed by the Nazis particularly on the Jewish people,
their deportation from their homes,
the seizure of their property without compensation,
their enslavement, maltreatment, and slaughter,
ought to have inspired the Israelis
to make a particularly careful effort to observe these rules.
Unhappily, current Israeli authorities now appear to be repeating
most of the abuses the Geneva Conventions were intended to prevent.

Hansell’s opinion on the legality of the settlements

George Ball,
in the lengthy endnote 10 to Chapter Nine,
Israel’s Colonialist Adventure—Ruling and Absorbing the Occupied Territories,
of his book The Passionate Attachment,
gives a lengthy excerpt from and summary of
Herbert J. Hansell’s opinion on the legality of the settlements.
This is reproduced below.

[PA, pages 343–345]

The relevant provisions of the Hansell opinion are the following:
1. As noted above,
Israeli armed forces entered Gaza, the West Bank, Sinai, and the Golan Heights in June 1967, in the course of an armed conflict.
Those areas had not been previously been part of Israel’s sovereign territory nor otherwise under its administration.
By reason of such entry of its armed forces,
Israel established control and began to exercise authority over those territories; and under international law,
Israel thus became a belligerent occupant of those territories.

Territory coming under the control of a belligerent occupant
does not thereby become its sovereign territory.
International law confers upon the occupying state
authority to undertake interim military administration
over the territory and its inhabitants;
that authority is not unlimited.
The governing rule are designed
to permit pursuit of its military needs by the occupying power,
to protect the security of the occupying forces,
to provide for orderly government,
to protect the rights and interests of the inhabitants and
to reserve questions of territorial change and sovereignty
to a later stage when the war is ended....

On the basis of the available information,
the civilian settlements in the territories occupied by Israel
do not appear to be consistent with
these limits on Israel’s authority as belligerent occupant
in that they do not seem intended to be of limited duration
or established to provide orderly government of the territories and,
though some may serve incidental security purposes,
they do not appear to be required to meet military needs during the occupation.

2. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 19, 1949, 6 UST 3516, provides,
in paragraph 6:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer
parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Paragraph 6 appears to apply by its terms
to any transfer by an occupying power of parts of its civilian population,
whatever the objective and whether involuntary or voluntary....

The Israeli civilian settlements thus appear to constitute a
“transfer of parts of its own civilian population
into the territory it occupies”
within the scope of paragraph 6....

4. It has been suggested that the principles of belligerent occupation,
including Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention,
may not apply in the West Bank and Gaza
because Jordan and Egypt were not the respective legitimate sovereigns
of those territories.
However, those principles appear applicable
whether or not Jordan and Egypt possessed legitimate sovereign rights
in respect of those territories.
Protecting the reversionary interest of an ousted sovereign
is not their sole or essential purpose;
the purposes are
protecting the civilian population of an occupied territory and
reserving permanent territorial changes, if any,
until settlement of the conflict....

While Israel may undertake, in the occupied territories,
actions necessary to meet its military needs and
to provide for orderly government during the occupation,
for the reasons indicated above
the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories
is inconsistent with international law

Still the Hansell legal opinion’s logic remains irrefutable.
Its basic argument consists of six points:
  1. As a result of its conquest in the 1967 War,
    Israel’s armed forces entered the area where it established control,
    thus making Israel, in the language of international law,
    a “belligerent occupant.”

  2. the achievement of the status of belligerent occupant
    did not give Israel sovereignty,
    but merely the right to undertake
    “interim military administration over the territory”—
    an authority that is far from unlimited.

  3. ”the civilian settlements in the territories occupied by Israel
    do not appear to be consistent with these limits on Israel’s authority
    as belligerent occupant in that
    they do not seem intended to be of limited duration
    or established to provide orderly government of the territories,
    and, though some may serve incidental security purposes
    [the original justification for the settlements was that
    they were needed for security purposes],
    they do not appear to be required to meet military needs
    during the occupation.”

  4. Paragraph Six of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (August 12, 1946), provides that
    “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer
    parts of its own civilian population
    into the territory it occupies.”

  5. ”Since paragraph Six appears to apply by its terms
    to any transfer by an occupying power of parts of its civilian population,
    whatever the objective and whether involuntary or voluntary,
    it seems clearly to reach such involvements of the occupying power as
    determining the location of settlements,
    making land available and financing their creation,
    as well as other kinds of assistance and participation in their creation.”

  6. The opinion concludes that
    the Israeli civilian settlements appear to constitute a
    “transfer of parts of its own civilian population
    into the territory it occupies within the scope of paragraph six.”

On the basis of these considerations, it concludes that
While Israel may undertake, in the occupied territories,
actions necessary to meet its military needs and
to provide for orderly government during the occupation...
the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories
is inconsistent with international law.
It should also be noted that
whether the occupying power claims
that it is the rightful owner of the territory
cannot be used to justify settlements in the captured area.

The Hansell opinion is important for reasons far beyond
the immediate topic addressed.
The Israelis have claimed that the territory is not occupied,
since they regard it as part of Israel,
but the Israeli government has graciously chosen
to enforce the Geneva Conventions anyway as regards the Arab inhabitants.
See Allen Gerson, Israel and the West Bank and International Law
(London: Frank Cass, 1978), pp. 80–116, 131.
Hansell’s opinion shows,
first, that the Geneva Conventions do apply to the Occupied Areas
and their enforcement is not optional at its discretion.
Second, the opinion also demonstrates in one important particular that
the Conventions are not being enforced;
in fact, they are only being violated.

The Israeli defense against the Hansell opinion
raises more questions than it purports to answer.
If, as stated, the West Bank and Gaza were simply
illegally occupied regions of Israel from 1948 to 1967,
why have not Israeli citizenship and Israeli law
been uniformly applied to everyone in those regions,
instead of only to the settlers?

Why was East Jerusalem specifically annexed
if it was always by right part of Israel?
In any case, the Hansell opinion, carried to its obvious conclusion,
implies not only a violation of a section of the Geneva Conventions
but that the settlements themselves are illegal;
that their presence, being unlawful,
confers no valid title to the territories by Israel,
and the settlers, as in the case of the Egyptian treaty,
may be removed from the territories and are not entitled to compensation.

Henry Kissinger’s pro-Israel opinion

On 2006-02-27 the Washington Post published an op-ed by Henry Kissinger,
What's Needed From Hamas:
Steps in the Peace Process Must Match Conditions on the Ground
(Note the bias already present in the title:
something is needed from Hamas, but nothing from Israel.)

Kissinger, of course, was Secretary of State as well as National Security Advisor
under Richard Nixon;
his academic background was in diplomatic history and foreign policy.
George Ball was the Undersecretary of State in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, while
Herbert Hansell was legal advisor of the State Department in the Carter administration;
both were lawyers.

Two paragraphs from Kissinger’s article show how divergent his view is
from Ball’s and Hansell’s.
From the green start line to the red end line are those two paragraphs;
perhaps showing my bias, Kissinger’s words appear in Israeli blue,
as that seems to me to be his orientation,
while my (extensive) comments appear in this color;
emphasis in quotations is added.

Progress has been prevented in large measure
by the rigid insistence on the 1967 frontiers and the refugee issue
[Note that what is preventing progress, to Kissinger,
is what the Palestinians want —
it is the Palestinians who are the obstacles to peace.]

— both unfulfillable preconditions
[Unfulfillable only to zealots of Zionism.].

The 1967 lines were established as demarcation lines of the 1948 cease-fire.
Not a single Arab state
accepted Israel as legitimate within these lines or
was prepared to treat the dividing lines as an international border
at that time.
[True, but what does that have to do with the situation today?
In the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,
the Arab states as a group affirmed willingness to
I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and
enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and
provide security for all the states of the region
II- Establish normal relations with Israel
in the context of this comprehensive peace.
(this meets both of Kissinger’s concerns as he stated them above)
provided that Israel would agree to
I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967,
including the Syrian Golan Heights,
to the June 4, 1967 lines
as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories
in the south of Lebanon.
II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem
to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
III- The acceptance of the establishment
of a sovereign independent Palestinian state
on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The fact that Dr. Kissinger
fails to even mention this landmark Arab peace offer
shows that he cannot be trusted as anything more than
a Zionist apparatchik.]

A return to the 1967 lines and
the abandonment of the settlements near Jerusalem
would be
such a psychological trauma for Israel as to endanger its survival.
[Here Kissinger leaves the world of the sane and the just.
“Such a psychological trauma for Israel”?
Such solicitude for the Israelis.
What was the trauma for the Palestinians,
whose homes and land were stolen by the Israeli conquerers?
Why does Kissinger show concern for a possible future Israeli loss,
but not for the historic Palestinian loss which corresponded to the Israeli gain?
Again, Kissinger cannot be viewed as anything more than a Zionist polemicist.
Further, why would any of this “endanger [Israel’s] survival”?
More Zionist hyperbole.]

The most logical [?] outcome would be
to trade Israeli settlement blocs around Jerusalem —
a demand President Bush has all but endorsed —
for some equivalent territories in present-day Israel
with significant Arab populations.
The rejection of such an approach, or alternative available concepts,
which would contribute greatly to stability and to demographic balance,
reflects a determination to keep incendiary issues permanently open.

[Kissinger here and elsewhere in the article
uses the word “incendiary” to describe issues
that the Palestinians desire to be on the negotiating table.
So, to Kissinger,
what the Palestinians want is “incendiary,”
while what Sharon’s political and ideological heirs in Kadima want is reasonable.
What an unfair and biased attitude.
That it is accepted by the American media consensus and body politic
shows the power the Zionists have to control America.]

Arthur Goldberg and 242’s missing “the”

The excerpt below, taken from Chapter 9, “Jews and Public Office,” of
Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment by J. J. Goldberg,
contains an explanation of who took the “the”
out of UN Resolution 242.

For future reference, and because of its general interest,
I have included a little more in the excerpt than that
just dealing with Resolution 242.

[JP, pages 229–230]

Abba Eban, Israel’s elder statesman and foremost diplomat,
argues that only two American Jews ever wielded real power as Jews.

For the most part, he says,
American Jewry’s vaunted “power’ through the years has not been true power,
but merely influence.
That is,
Jews have frequently been able to reach the decision-makers
and convince them to make favorable decisions.
But only two individuals actually have found themselves in a position
where their own decisions and actions
would determine the fate of the Jewish people:
Arthur J. Goldberg and Henry Kissinger.

Goldberg was America’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1967,
when the Security Council was debating ways to force an Israeli withdrawal
from the territories captured in the Six-Day War.
Acting largely on his own—
the Johnson White House was distracted by the quagmire of Vietnam
Goldberg maneuvered for months
to protect Israel from losing on New York’s East River
what it won on the battlefield.
The result was Resolution 242,
adopted by the Security Council in November 1967.

“Two-four-two,” as diplomats call it,
required that Israel withdraw “from territories” taken in the war.
Missing, at Goldberg’s insistence, was the word “the.”
That left Israel free to withdraw from some or all of the territories,
depending on what sort of deal it cut with its neighbors.
The resolution also made Israeli withdrawal part of a package peace agreement,
freeing Israel from Arab demands for a unilateral pullback.
Resolution 242 has formed the legal basis for all Middle East diplomacy since then.
Thanks to Goldberg,
it allowed Israel to wait for Arab recognition before discussing withdrawal.

Kissinger, of course, was the national security advisor and secretary of state
who guided American foreign policy
for eight years [1969–1976] during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
These were years of nonstop Middle East crisis.
They saw
the rise of Palestinian terrorism;
the Yom Kippur War of 1973;
the Arab oil embargo; and
the disengagement talks among Israel, Syria, and Egypt.
According to Eban,
Kissinger’s management of the Yom Kippur War ceasefire,
and of the disengagement talks that followed,
set in motion the process leading to
the historic Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1978.
During the Yom Kippur War, in particular,
with President Nixon consumed by Watergate,
Kissinger operated virtually autonomously.

In some senses, Eban’s list is too short;
it begins with a too-narrow definition of power.
Public figures rarely enjoy the sort of absolute autonomy
that lets them act without constraints.
Even the president of the United States is constrained in his actions
by Congress, the courts, and the public.
To say that officials wield power only when they can do as they please,
without asking permission or negotiating a bureaucracy,
is to describe a power that exists nowhere.

Then, too, Eban’s list begs a larger question:
what does it mean for a Jew to act “as a Jew”?
Hundreds of Jews have held important government jobs in the last quarter-century,
many of them positions of considerable power and influence.
More than a few of these people have acted at crucial moments
to alter the flow of events in the Middle East,
much as Goldberg and Kissinger did,
if with less drama.
Some clearly acted because they felt duty-bound as Jews.
Others had motives that were much more ambiguous, even to themselves.

Miscellaneous Articles and References


Olmert & Israel: The Change
By Amos Elon
New York Review of Books, 2008-02-14

[An excellent general review article on the settlements,
incorporating brief comments on the following three books.]

Lords of the Land:
The War Over Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967–2007

by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar,
translated from the Hebrew by Vivian Eden
Nation Books, 531 pp., $29.95

Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse
by Sylvain Cypel
Other Press, 574 pp., $17.95 (paper)

Son of the Cypresses:
Memories, Reflections, and Regrets from a Political Life

by Meron Benvenisti,
translated from the Hebrew by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta,
in consultation with Michael Kaufman-Lacusta
University of California Press, 253 pp., $27.50

[The printed article features an excellent map of the West Bank, titled
“West Bank Separation Barrier and Israeli Settlements and Outposts, April 2007”,
showing the occupied areas as well.
The map is a composite of
a map from Haaretz
and several maps from the Foundation for Middle East Peace.]

[Here is the second (and concluding) section of the article,
including Elon’s commentary on Lords of the Land.
Subsection and paragraph numbers (based on the original text) and emphasis
are added.]

The three main impediments to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement are
  • the settlements,

  • control over Jerusalem, and

  • the Palestinian demand for
    the right of return of the Palestinian refugees
    and/or compensation for their loss.
Of these, however,
the problem of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
seems to be the most difficult to resolve.
Taken together,
these settlements are a huge, intentionally created obstacle
that affects hundreds of thousands of lives.
And for what?
In the best case,
the settlements extend the Israeli border to the east by a few miles,
a distance devoid of serious strategic meaning;
in the worst case,
they could
perpetuate the hundred-year war between the two peoples indefinitely.
Yet there are now so many settlers—over 250,000 in the West Bank—
that it may turn out to be impossible to dismantle
communities created
with the precise aim of precluding a repartitioning of the country.

Too many lives,
too many political careers and real estate interests—
i.e., too many people and political factions within Israel—
may depend on it.
On the occasion of President Bush’s recent visit to Israel,
the lead editorial in Haaretz
blamed Bush for being
an “accomplice after the fact”
in the illegal, constantly expanding Israeli settlement project in the West Bank.

The Palestinians continue to insist,
as they did at Camp David in 2000,
on repartitioning along the 1967 lines.
[Actually, that seems a quite generous offer from the Palestinians.
They could easily make an argument for
a return to the 1947, UN 181, partition.]

This would leave Israel with 78 percent
of the entire disputed area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean
and the Palestinians with 22 percent.
Having already lost 78 percent of Palestine in 1948, the Palestinians argue,
they can’t be expected to cede more.
Are land swaps a solution?
They were discussed at the aborted Camp David talks in 2000;
they were also raised in Clinton’s proposals of December that year—
which the Israelis accepted and Arafat rejected—
and at the Taba meeting in January 2001.
If several large Israeli settlements on the borders
are to remain in Israeli hands,
the Palestinians will demand
that they be compensated with Israeli territory adjacent to Gaza,
among other places.

The settlement project grew to its present dimensions
in the years after the great victory of 1967.
After three wars, terror, superinflation, two intifadas, suicide bombers,
and other troubles,
a defiant and seemingly unreal cast of mind
has taken hold among many Israelis.

I have observed this mindset in my own family.
It is well described by Sylvain Cypel,
a French observer and editor of Le Monde,
who spent many years in Israel,
in his insightful book Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse.
He writes,
“The occupation automatically reinforced the most ethnicist tendencies.”

The original French title of the book, Les Emmurés—those walled in—
better expresses the peculiar mixture of
joie de vivre, arrogance, provincialism, aggressiveness,
fear of another Holocaust, and claustrophobia
that has struck foreign observers and also some Israelis for years.
All Israeli governments after 1967—whether on the right or the left—
supported the settlement project more or less enthusiastically.
When the project began, the world was in an age of decolonization,
and the Algerian war had occurred less than a decade before.
How Israeli leaders thought they could get away with a permanent occupation
without provoking another war
remains a mystery.
Ben-Gurion, then out of office, advocated a quick withdrawal.

Perhaps Israeli leaders recalled that
in 1948,
Israel had ended up with almost twice the area allocated it
in the UN partition resolution [181];

so this time, too, they may have believed,
Israel would be allowed to keep what it had won in 1967.
They overlooked the fact that 1948 was a unique moment of grace,
barely three years after the Holocaust.
At a time when Europeans were still holding on to their colonies,
Israel had been attacked by the armies of four adjacent countries,
and it was to be a haven for a million survivors.

None of this was the case two decades later,
after a war Israelis named after the Six Days of Creation.
Ignoring international protests, all Israeli governments, left and right,
gave lavish support for the settlement project,
openly or by subterfuge.
The financing was often indirect—filtered through concealed channels—
and went under many names.
Settlement funds were hidden in health, transportation, or education budgets.
The full cost so far is not known, but must amount to billions of dollars.
The Israeli writers Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar,
in their excellent, well-documented book Lords of the Land, write:
Deception, shame, concealment, denial, and repression
have characterized the state’s behavior
with respect to the flow of funds to the settlements.
It can be said that this has been an act of duplicity in which
all of the Israeli governments since 1967 have been partner.
This massive self-deception still awaits the research
that will reveal its full magnitude.

The settlement fever first spread among young men and women
who believed they were following in the footsteps
of the early Zionist pioneers,
the fabled “beggars with dreams”
who between 1892 and 1948 had settled on land owned by Jews.

[Bruce Sims points out
how inaccurate the glib comment Elon just made is:

That [2.1.5] ‘almost twice the area’ did NOT occur because
‘beggars with dreams settled on land owned by Jews’;
to the contrary,
it was land seized from the legal owners
as a result of the 1948 war.

And the article fails to examine
just why the world created a ‘State’
on land owned and settled by others than
those the world wanted to give a ‘State’ to.
See The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.]

This cannot be said of the settlers after 1967
who settled on requisitioned land
in violation of international law
that prohibits the movement of settlers into occupied country.
According to Peace Now,

46 percent of all land in the West Bank
is now directly controlled by the settlers’ local councils,

whose powers extend beyond their communities.
Many of the early settlers were young Orthodox Israelis, true believers,
urged on by their rabbis who saw in the settlement project
the “Beginning of Salvation.”

The project soon appealed to non-ideological, secular Israelis
in search of cheaper housing.
To protect them against the anger of Palestinians,
whose lands they often took over
[does that mean “stole”?],
they were given arms.
The settlements were surrounded by moats and electronic fences;
the houses were up to 50 percent cheaper than in Israel proper.
The Israeli government built an enormous new network of roads and tunnels
allowing settlers to commute easily to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
without, in most cases, encountering—or even setting eyes on—
a single Palestinian except in the far distance.

There are now, in effect, two road networks in the West Bank,
roads for Palestinians and
roads strictly reserved for Israelis and carefully guarded.
East of Jerusalem I suddenly happened upon a new four-lane road
divided by a wall in the middle.
One side is for Palestinians,
and creates a road link but not the promised geographical contiguity
between Ramallah and Bethlehem.
The other side is reserved for Israelis traveling in the same directions.

The settlements are mostly on land requisitioned by the Israeli government
for “public purposes,”
though it is difficult to see how
the arbitrary designation of “public” lands in the West Bank
could have applied to land held by anyone other than Palestinians.
Neither the Turks, the British, nor the Jordanians ever compiled
a proper register of land ownership in the West Bank.
Land usually belonged—and still belongs—
to clans or to individuals by contract or tradition.
There is no available public record
showing that Palestinians whose land has been requisitioned
have received compensation from the Israeli government.
According to a recent study by Peace Now,
40 percent of the settlements were built on private Palestinian land.

The settlement project that Zertal and Eldar describe so clearly
has gone on now for nearly forty years.
It continues to this day, they write,
“as though it were an involuntary, unconsidered movement
of a body that has lost its mind.”
[Let us, as Americans, be clear on this point:
The settlement movement Elon, Zertal, and Eldar are describing
has occurred due, in large part,
to the passionate support America, under pressure from the Zionists,
has provided it,

in many ways.]

Water resources in the West Bank are controlled by the settlers,
whose lawns and swimming pools are often within view of Palestinian villages
where water is so scarce it has to be brought in by truck.

Lords of the Land
describes the political history of the settlement project in detail,
showing how after the Six-Day War,
the project was launched and sustained by, among others,
Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Golda Meir, and Menahem Begin.
As for Ariel Sharon, they describe him as
the powerhouse behind the expansion of the settlements
and their spread throughout the West Bank
in order to thwart evacuation and return of the land
to the Palestinians.

[Emphasis added.]

They examine the origins and the methods of Palestinian terror
and the cult of death that arose among some of the Orthodox settlers
who were quick to make powerful political symbols
of those who were killed.
In the 1970s, before the peace treaty with Egypt,
when there were still Israeli settlements in the Sinai peninsula,
a settler from Hebron visited one and asked,
“Where is your cemetery?”
He was told there was none.
“In this case you are lost!” he cried.
Zertal and Eldar’s book tellingly describes
the special relationship and complicity that has developed between settlers
and the higher echelons of the army and the secret service.
Not a few senior Israeli officers are themselves settlers.

Before the Annapolis conference,
Olmert pledged to freeze new settlement construction.
But this promise has been rendered meaningless since, as Haaretz has reported,
the Israeli government continues to expand
a dozen existing settlements in the West Bank.
Another settlement project, “the biggest ever since 1967,” at Atarot,
between Jerusalem and Ramallah,
was announced by the Israeli housing ministry in December.
New construction is also taking place at Har Choma,
also known as Jebel Abu Neim,
a new suburb of greater Jerusalem designed for 15,000 housing units
that is located ten minutes from the city
but is just outside the 1967 demarcation line;
an additional three hundred units are now being added.
When I visited the sales office in December,
I was told that five-room penthouses will be available
for a third of what they cost
half a mile down the road in Jerusalem proper.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Zertal and Eldar describe how
the new Jewish neighborhoods are “invading the heart of Hebron,”
and encircling the main Palestinian towns of Nablus and Ramallah,
the present seat of the Palestinian government,
creating a human and urban mix so volatile
that any attempt to draw a border through it
in order to separate the two peoples
will entail bitter struggles and agony.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics,
the settlers’ community grew by 5.45 percent during the first half of 2007.

When Zertal and Eldar’s book was published in Israel in 2005,
it received excellent reviews in the Israeli press.
“[Israel’s] politicians, all of them,
come out looking very small in this giant of a book,”
wrote Haaretz (where Eldar is a staff member).
“One cannot, should not, put down this encyclopedic book till its very end,
in spite of the rage.... [It’s] a must-read book.”
Yedioth Ahronot praised it
for exposing the settlers’ rhetorical techniques,
their portrayal of any concession or withdrawal
as a disaster of Holocaust proportions.

Lords of the Land gives the first full account of the curious combination of
blind ambition,
political ignorance,
distorted religiosity, and
gross real estate speculation
that went into the vast, hugely expensive building project
that now has become the main impediment to peace.
[All with the full support of AIPAC, ADL, the CPMAJO,
and much of the rest of the organized American Jewish community.]

They describe the settlers’ policy of fighting for every last house
on every last illegal outpost in the West Bank
as though it were holy land.

At a certain moment, the settlers indeed became,
like the title of Zertal and Eldar’s book,
lords of the land,
well connected,
politically powerful,
represented in the cabinet, in the Knesset, in the government bureaucracy, and, above all, in the army.
There are now second- and third-generation settlers.
Many of them, raised amid the constant violence and conflict of the West Bank,
act in wild and aggressive ways.
Some of them are frequently involved in nasty skirmishes with Palestinians.
Armed with weapons supplied by the army for self-defense,
they harass Palestinian shepherds with impunity,
uproot olive groves,
poison fields and plants
in the hope of forcing Palestinians to abandon nearby lands.
They often enter Palestinian villages shooting wildly in the air.

Known as noar hagvaot—youths of the hilltops—
they “occupy” hills at a distance from their settlements
to create “outposts” of new “Jewish presence.”
They begin by putting up a tent and planting flags.
Soon a few trailers roll up—no one knows exactly from where—
and a number of mobile huts arrive by truck.

The police rarely if ever intervene.
Local policemen in the settlements are often settlers themselves.
Young families from the settlements move into the trailers and huts
with their numerous children who, of course, cannot be abandoned.
Water pipes are laid by the national water company
and the electric company connects the “outpost” to the national grid.
Before long, an asphalt access road to the outpost has been constructed,
and since the settlers could be attacked,
a few soldiers are permanently posted on site for their protection.
No exact information is available on who pays for these services.
Very likely it’s the taxpayer.
But this, more or less,
is how 105 allegedly “unauthorized” settlements or outposts
came into being in recent years,
with an estimated population of two thousand.

The mindlessness of the settlement project was nowhere more evident
than in the narrow, grossly over-populated Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians call it the biggest prison on earth.
It is surrounded on three sides by a high fence
and on the fourth by the seacoast,
which is patrolled day and night by the Israeli navy.
Balloons and unmanned surveillance aircraft
hover above and photograph everything.
The population density is one of the highest on earth.
Here, until the Israeli evacuation in 2005,
some 1,500 Israeli settlers lived inside their gated communities,
behind electronic fences, with green lawns, swimming pools, clinics,
and other amenities.
They were surrounded by one and a half million Palestinians,
most of them, in wretched shanty towns,
refugees from Israel and their descendants.

The two worlds rarely met.
Moving from one to the other
was like moving from Southern California to Bangladesh.
By 2005, shortly before Sharon’s stroke,
this part of the settlement project was becoming too costly.
Apart from the human toll,
one or two armored infantry battalions
and regular sorties by tanks and even the air force
were required to protect a dozen or so settlements
spread throughout the Gaza Strip.

When Sharon decided to evacuate them,
the settlers were offered ample compensation,
in some cases up to half a million dollars.
Thousands of soldiers and police
were needed to oversee their forced evacuation.
For reasons never adequately explained by the Israeli government,
every house in these settlements was dynamited after the evacuation—
synagogues especially were not allowed to fall intact into alien hands.
Practically every amenity was blown up—
roads, wells, water tanks, electricity poles—
leaving behind mountains of ruins everywhere;
only the communal greenhouses in which settlers cultivated flowers for export
were left intact,
and they were soon destroyed by Palestinians.
[This situation is discussed briefly in this 2005-11-27 IHT article;
in Lost Years Mark Matthews, writing in 2007,
discusses the situation at length
and quotes James Wolfensohn asserting that
the vandalazation of the greenhouses was quite limited,
that the real problem was the backup at the Gaza/Israel border crossings
which caused produce to rot in the sun while it was waiting to go through.]

When Sharon collapsed into a deep coma a few months later,
some settlers claimed he suffered divine punishment
for having dared to challenge them and their God.

In evacuating Gaza
one of Sharon’s motives may also have been to advance his last great project:
an attempt to impose Israel’s final borders on the West Bank unilaterally,
through what was called hitkansut, sometimes translated as “convergence.”
The projected final border would follow, more or less,
the line of the new barrier wall.
It would include within Israel proper most of the larger West Bank settlements
but require the repatriation of perhaps ten thousand settlers.
It was supposed to prevent the much-feared binational state
by concentrating as many Jews as possible inside the redrawn borders.
It would, in addition, provide a continued Israeli presence in the Jordan valley.
Dov Weisglas, Sharon’s chief of staff, said at the time that
this project would postpone the creation of a Palestinian state indefinitely;
it would, he said, be put in formaldehyde.
Sharon did not live to carry out his plan.
Olmert at first endorsed it but then changed course
and resolved to try to find a negotiated solution agreed upon by both sides.
Many of those who have talked to him, as I have, believe he means it.
Whether, at this late stage,
he is strong enough to make good on his words
is another question.
The same may be said for the recent rhetoric of George Bush
promising a peace treaty before he leaves office.

—January 16, 2008

Grab more hills, expand the territory
by Henry Siegman
London Review of Books, 2008-04-10

Review of:

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The title of Gershom Gorenberg’s book
is somewhat misleading in its suggestion that
the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza
was ‘accidental’.
While Gorenberg, an American-born Israeli journalist, notes that
no Israeli government
ever made a formal decision about the future of the West Bank,
his account of the first decade of Israel’s occupation
leaves no doubt that

the settlements were deliberately founded,
and were intended to create a permanent Israeli presence
in as much of the Occupied Territories as possible

(indeed, the hope was for them to cover all of the Occupied Territories,
if the international community would allow it).
No Israeli government has ever supported
the establishment of a Palestinian state
east of the 1949 armistice line that constituted the pre-1967 border.
At the very least,
the settlements were designed to make
a return to that border impossible.

It is clear from Gorenberg’s account,
and from Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar’s comprehensive survey of the settlement project, Lords of the Land,
that the issue dividing Israeli governments
has not been the presence of settlements in the West Bank.
Shimon Peres of the Labour Party
played a key role in launching the settlement enterprise.
Their differences have been over
what to do with the Palestinians
whose lands were being confiscated.
Most have argued they should be granted home rule and Jordanian citizenship.
Over the years, some cabinet members –
Rehavam Ze’evi, Rafael Eitan, Effi Eitam and Avigdor Lieberman, for example –
have openly advocated ‘transfer’, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing.
There has been general agreement that,
rather than adopt a formal position
on the future status of the West Bank’s residents
and risk provoking international opposition,
Israel should continue to create ‘facts on the ground’
while remaining discreet about their purpose.

In time, it was thought,
the world would come to accept the Jordan River as Israel’s eastern border.
[This is a cutesy game which the American political establishment
has been more than happy to go along with
(just so long as they can continue to rake in the campaign contributions from American Jews
and avoid being demonized by the American media for being “anti-Israel”).]

These books give the lie to
the carefully cultivated narrative that has sustained the occupation.
According to that narrative,
the government of Israel offered peace
to the Palestinians and to its Arab neighbours
in the aftermath of the war of 1967
if they would agree to recognise the Jewish state.
But at a meeting of the Arab League in Khartoum on 1 September 1967,
the Arab world responded with ‘the three “no”s of Khartoum’:
no peace, no recognition and no negotiations.
This left Israel no choice but to continue to occupy Palestinian lands.
Had Palestinians not resorted to violence in resisting the occupation,
the story goes, they would have had a state of their own a long time ago.

The story is a lie.

Israel’s military and political leaders never had any intention
of returning the West Bank and Gaza to their Arab residents.

The cabinet’s offer to withdraw from Arab land
was addressed specifically to Egypt and Syria,
not to Jordan or the Palestinians in the territories.
The cabinet’s formal resolution to return the Sinai and the Golan in June 1967
said nothing about the West Bank,
and referred to Gaza as ‘fully within the territory of the state of Israel’.
With only a murmur of dissent, the cabinet,
led by Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan, and the then prime minister, Levi Eshkol,
committed itself to policies that would allow
only local forms of autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza,
an arrangement they believed would in time allow them to
establish the Jordan River as not only Israel’s security border
but as its internationally recognised political border as well.

The decision to retain control of the territories
was taken days after the end of the 1967 war, and
was not a response to Palestinian terrorism,
or even to Palestinian rejection of Israel’s legitimacy.
Zertal and Eldar cite a report by Mossad officials,
prepared at the request of the IDF’s intelligence division
and presented to the IDF on 14 June 1967,
which found that
‘the vast majority of West Bank leaders, including the most extreme among them,
are prepared at this time to reach a permanent peace agreement’
on the basis of ‘an independent existence of Palestine’ without an army.
The report was marked top secret, and buried.

Security was the reason offered by Israel
to justify the founding of the settlements.
But the overwhelming majority of them
actually created new security problems,
if only because vast military and intelligence resources
had to be diverted to their defence.
The settlements have also enraged the Palestinians,
whose land has been stolen to make room for them –
this, too, has done nothing to increase Israel’s security.

Both books demonstrate in considerable detail that
this was the conclusion not only of external critics
but of Israeli military and security experts as well.
Haim Bar-Lev, a former chief of staff,
asserted before Israel’s Supreme Court in 1979 that
Jewish settlements in densely populated Arab areas
would make terror attacks easier, and that
securing the settlements would distract security forces ‘from essential missions’.
Major General Matityahu Peled rejected the security argument as
‘not made in good faith’, and intended ‘for only one purpose:
to give a justification for the seizure of the land
that cannot be justified in any other way’.

The most influential supporter of a vigorous settlement policy
was Yigal Allon, the legendary commander of Israel’s Palmach,
an elite force established before the founding of the state.
‘A peace treaty,’ he said at a government meeting on 19 June 1967,
‘is the weakest guarantee of the future of peace and the future of defence.’
Zertal and Eldar report that
he warned against returning even a single inch of the West Bank,
and told the cabinet that if he had to choose between
‘the wholeness of the land with all the Arab population
or giving up the West Bank,
I am in favour of the wholeness of the land with all the Arabs.’
Allon’s views,
which shaped the strategic thinking of Israel’s political and security elites for decades,
were deeply influenced by his mentor Yitzhak Tabenkin,
one of the founders of the Yishuv.
Tabenkin believed that partition was a temporary state of affairs and that
the ‘wholeness’ of the land would eventually be achieved,
whether peacefully or through war.

Lords of the Land and The Accidental Empire
reveal the massive scale of Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands
and the involvement of every part of Israeli society
in advancing the settlement enterprise
in clear and deliberate violation not only of international law
but of Israel’s own laws.
Gorenberg reports that when asked by the foreign minister, Abba Eban, in 1967 about the legality of settlements,
Theodor Meron, the foreign ministry’s legal counsel, responded:
‘Civilian settlement in the administered territories
contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’
The prohibition, he stressed, is ‘categorical
and is not conditioned on the motives or purposes of the transfer,
and is aimed at preventing colonisation of conquered territory
by citizens of the conquering state’.

The settlements were carefully investigated in 2005
by a commission headed by Talia Sasson,
who was cynically appointed by Ariel Sharon to uncover
the illegal activities that he himself had orchestrated.
Sasson found that the settlements – illegal according to Israel’s own laws –
were established
with the secret support of virtually every government ministry,
the IDF and Shin Bet.
Feigning shock when Sasson presented her findings,
Sharon and his ministers promptly buried the report.

Zertal and Eldar make clear that
the settlers lord it
not only over the Occupied Territories and their subject population
but over the state of Israel as well.
It is important to remember that
the majority of Israel’s settlers are driven not by ideology
but by economic and quality-of-life considerations,
and are attracted by
the heavy subsidies the government supplies to the settlements.
Some of these ‘non-ideological’ settlers are secular Israelis,
while others are members of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities
that are deeply ambivalent if not opposed to the Zionist national enterprise. [??]
the driving force behind the settlements
is a small religious-nationalist group,

whose members are widely considered
the most savvy, well connected and effective political operators in Israel.
Their ideology combines
an intense form of religious messianism with
an extreme nationalism
that has far more in common with
the religious and ethnocentric nationalism
of the Serbian Orthodox militias of Mladic and Karadzic
than with any Jewish values I am familiar with.
That Sharon and some of his settler friends
were virtually the only politicians in the West
(other than Serbia’s Slavic supporters)
who opposed military measures
to prevent Serbian ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo
was not an accident.

[Yeah, yeah, yeah.
We keep hearing that the supporters of the settlements
are only a small minority of Jews, both in Israel and America.
But somehow both the Israeli and American governments
keep doing practically everything possible
to support the on-going growth of the settlements,
even while paying lip service to opposing that growth, and
even in the face of the opposition of practically all of the rest of the world.]

The religious-nationalist leadership
now seems to have lost much of its authority with
the far more radical younger generation born and bred in the settlements.
This new generation draws inspiration from the ‘hilltop youth’,
young people who responded to Sharon in October 1998
when, as foreign minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government,
he called on settlers to ‘grab’ hilltops
in the parts of the West Bank from which he and Netanyahu had agreed to withdraw,
as stipulated by the Oslo Accords.
‘Grab more hills, expand the territory,’ Sharon urged on Israel Radio.
‘Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands.
Everything we don’t grab will be in their hands.’

The ‘hilltop youth’
reject the authority of the Jewish state and its institutions.
They run around in what they imagine to be biblical dress,
assaulting Palestinians,
stealing and destroying their homes, crops and orchards,
occasionally beating them and every so often killing them.
Occasionally the IDF intervenes,
but their efficacy is undermined by their belief that
their main job is to protect the settlers,
not the population under occupation.

David Shulman, a distinguished academic, peace activist
and a member of Ta’ayush,
an organisation of Israeli Palestinians and Jews promoting coexistence,
wrote about the hilltop youth in his recent book
Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine.
‘Like any society,’ he writes, Israel
has violent sociopathic elements.
What is unusual about the last four decades in Israel is that
many destructive individuals have found a haven,
complete with ideological legitimation,
within the settlement enterprise.
Here, in places like Chavat Maon, Itamar, Tapuach and Hebron,
they have, in effect,
unfettered freedom to terrorise the local Palestinian population;
to attack, shoot, injure, sometimes kill –
all in the name of the alleged sanctity of the land
and of the Jews’ exclusive right to it.
Even otherwise law-abiding Israelis see the hilltop youth as latter-day halutzim,
the Zionist pioneers who cleared malarial swamps and built the kibbutzim.

As a result of Sharon’s dismantling of Jewish settlements in Gaza in 2005,
many young people in the religious-nationalist camp
have become further radicalised and alienated from the settler leadership.
They saw the withdrawal as a bitter and unforgivable betrayal,
and found fault with their own leaders for their failure to prevent it.
They could not accept Sharon’s argument that
the removal of the Gaza settlements was unavoidable
if Israel was to hold onto Palestinian land in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
That was the deal Bush agreed to
in a letter he handed Sharon at Camp David in 2004:
in return for withdrawal,
Bush stated his administration’s position that
‘in light of new realities on the ground,
including already existing major Israeli population centres,
it is unrealistic to expect that
the outcome of final status negotiations
will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.’
[A terrible betrayal.
Bush gave away (so far as his administration is concerned)
a key Palestinian bargaining chip, without their permission.]

In a recent editorial,
Ha’aretz accused not only the settlers but all of religious Zionism
of having ‘positioned itself as a movement
that denies the sovereignty of the state’:
As long as the state serves the goals of the settlements,
they support it.
But the moment a contrary decision is made –
on territorial withdrawals or evacuation of outposts –
this camp allows itself to break the law . . .
This is not the passing caprice of a few teens,
but the metamorphosis of an entire camp
from a centre of constructive activity
to a centre of subversion.

Similar criticisms have even been expressed
by members of the religious-nationalist camp.
The rabbi of Moshav Nov, Yigal Ariel,
recently published a book called Leshem Shamayim (‘For the Sake of Heaven’),
which condemns the movement for its hostility to the ‘basic rule of law’.
He accuses the settlers of becoming ‘delusional and irrational’,
in danger of ‘being swept into a dark abyss of their own making’.

Lords of the Land lets no one off the hook.
But in a society in which security is a central concern,
the military inevitably plays an unusually powerful role
in shaping the values of the young men and women
who serve in it for two to three years or more.
[Maybe so, but most values are shaped before military age.]
Its pervasive influence poses by far the greatest danger to Israel’s future:
to its survival as a democratic state
and to the Jewish values the state was intended to embody.

Since 1967,
the IDF has transformed itself into the army of the settlers,
to which abused Palestinians cannot turn for protection.

The settler leadership’s close ties with government power-brokers mean that
they can make or break the careers of the IDF’s most senior officers.
The most chilling part of Zertal and Eldar’s story is
their description of
how the settler leaders intimidate IDF commanders and make them fall into line.
The most decorated soldier in the history of the IDF, Ehud Barak,
Israel’s former prime minister and currently the minister of defence in Olmert’s government,
had to eat his words after settler leaders walked out during a speech he made
when he was the head of the IDF’s Central Command in May 1987
because he used the word ‘occupation’
to describe Israel’s presence in the West Bank.
They returned to their seats
only after he agreed to repeat his talk without using that word.

While the IDF, with the help of Shin Bet, is somehow able to locate
almost every potential Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank
and seems to be aware of their most intimate conversations,
they don’t often appear able to locate Jewish settlers
who have attacked innocent Palestinians, destroyed their homes and farms,
or murdered them.
Most settlers’ crimes remain unsolved, as do crimes committed by IDF soldiers.
The military justice system
rarely fails to find extenuating circumstances for IDF abuses.
And the few Israelis who are found guilty
receive ridiculously lenient sentences.
Meanwhile, more than ten thousand Palestinians, including women and teenagers, languish in Israeli jails,
many without having been indicted or tried for specific crimes.

The contrast with the courts’ treatment of settlers is striking.
Pinchas Wallerstein, one of the most prominent settler leaders,
fired at an Arab youth whom he saw burning a tyre on the road.
The boy, whom he shot in the back, died.
Wallerstein was sentenced to perform public service.
The judge, Ezra Hadaiya, quoted the rabbinic admonition that
‘one should not judge one’s fellow until one is in his place.’
In 1982, a settler, Nissan Ishegoyev,
fired his Uzi machine-gun into an alley from which
Palestinian children were throwing stones,
and killed a 13-year-old boy.
His punishment was three months’ public service.
Between 1988 and 1992,
the violent deaths of 48 Palestinians were recorded in the Occupied Territories.
In only 12 of these cases were indictments filed against the Israeli suspects;
of these, only one resulted in a murder conviction;
another ended in a conviction for manslaughter, and
six resulted in convictions for causing death through negligence.
The defendant who was convicted of murder,
for which the maximum punishment is 20 years in prison,
was sentenced to three years.

The belief that
people who spend some of their most impressionable years in the IDF
will return from their service
with their democratic, humanitarian and egalitarian sensibilities intact
is the absurd myth underlying the IDF’s conceit
that it is the most moral army in the world.
Equally absurd is the notion that Israel has a model justice system
in which Palestinians can get fair treatment.
Israelis concerned about the double standards of their justice system
have taken comfort in the enlightened rulings of Israel’s Supreme Court.
But these can no longer be counted on.
Recently, in an interim decision,
the Supreme Court accepted for the first time
the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories;
the Association for Civil Rights in Israel sees the arrangement as
marking the onset of legal apartheid.

What makes the situation particularly frightening is that the senior leaders of the IDF are increasingly settlers in the religious-nationalist camp.
Many of them are under the sway of settler rabbis, who, like their jihadi counterparts, provide religious rulings – fatwas, in effect – inciting their followers even to murder Israeli prime ministers if they cross the settlers’ red lines.
The extent of this change in the IDF was described by Steven Erlanger
in the New York Times last December.
Colonel Aharon Haliva, the commander of Israel’s officer training school,
told Erlanger that
more than a third of the volunteers in combat units
now come from the religious settler youth.
‘You don’t find them in Tel Aviv,
but all over the hills of Judea and Samaria,’ Haliva said.
‘They are the pioneers of today.’
Their influence on their charges is profound.
‘In two months I’ll command 20 soldiers,’ one of them said to Erlanger,
‘and from them there will be maybe two officers,
and that’s another forty soldiers, and another forty families . . .
First commanders matter.
The way I hold my weapon – it’s the way my first commander held it.’

Haggai Alon, a senior official in the Ministry of Defence in Olmert’s government when the ministry was headed by Amir Peretz,
recently charged the IDF with furthering the settlers’ agenda.
Alon told Ha’aretz that
the IDF ignores the Supreme Court’s instructions
about the path of the so-called security fence, and is instead
‘setting a route that will not enable the establishment of a Palestinian state’.
Alon noted that when in 2005 James Wolfensohn
negotiated an agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority,
which was intended to ease restrictions
on Palestinians travelling in the Occupied Territories,
the IDF eased them for the settlers instead;
for Palestinians, the number of checkpoints doubled.
According to Alon, the IDF is ‘carrying out an apartheid policy’
that is emptying Hebron of Arabs
and Judaising (his term) the Jordan Valley,
while co-operating openly with the settlers
in an attempt to make a two-state solution impossible.

The claim that
it is only Palestinian violence and rejectionism
that compelled Israel to remain in the territories
is a fabrication.
As I argued in the LRB (16 August 2007),
the assiduously promoted story of Israel’s pursuit of peace
and its search for a Palestinian ‘partner for peace’
was fashioned to buy time to establish ‘facts on the ground’:
settlements that would
so completely shatter the territorial and demographic contiguity and integrity of Palestinian land and life
as to make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.
In this, Israel’s leaders have succeeded so well that Olmert,
who claims finally to have realised that without a two-state solution
Israel will become an apartheid entity that cannot survive,
has not been able to implement even the smallest of the changes
he promised in Annapolis.

The expansion of the settlements
and of a Jews-only highway system in the West Bank
continues without interruption.
The price that Israel and Jews everywhere –
not to speak of the Palestinian people –
may yet have to pay for this ‘success’ is painful to contemplate.

Henry Siegman is director of the US/Middle East Project and
a research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Programme at SOAS.
He was a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 2006.


Fictions on the Ground
New York Times Op-Ed, 2009-06-22

[All the emphasis is added.]


Israel needs “settlements.”
They are intrinsic to
the image it has long sought to convey to overseas admirers and fund-raisers:
a struggling little country securing its rightful place in a hostile environment
by the hard moral work of
land clearance, irrigation, agrarian self-sufficiency,
industrious productivity,
legitimate self-defense and the building of Jewish communities.
But this neo-collectivist frontier narrative rings false
in modern, high-tech Israel.
And so the settler myth has been transposed somewhere else —
to the Palestinian lands seized in war in 1967
and occupied illegally ever since.

It is thus not by chance that
the international press is encouraged to speak and write
of Jewish “settlers” and “settlements” in the West Bank.
But this image is profoundly misleading.
The largest of these controversial communities in geographic terms
is Maale Adumim.
It has a population in excess of 35,000,
demographically comparable to Montclair, N.J., or Winchester, England.
What is most striking, however, about Maale Adumim is its territorial extent. This “settlement” comprises more than 30 square miles —
making it one and a half times the size of Manhattan
and nearly half as big as the borough and city of Manchester, England.
Some “settlement.”

There are about 120 official Israeli settlements
in the occupied territories of the West Bank.
In addition, there are “unofficial” settlements
whose number is estimated variously from 80 to 100.
Under international law, there is no difference between these two categories;
both are contraventions of Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,
which explicitly prohibits the annexation of land consequent to the use of force,
a principle re-stated in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.

Thus the distinction so often made in Israeli pronouncements
between “authorized” and “unauthorized” settlements
is specious —
all are illegal, whether or not they have been officially approved
and whether or not their expansion has been “frozen” or continues apace.
(It is a matter of note that Israel’s new foreign minister,
Avigdor Lieberman,
belongs to the West Bank settlement of Nokdim,
established in 1982 and illegally expanded since.)

The blatant cynicism of the present Israeli government
should not blind us to
the responsibility of its more respectable-looking predecessors.
The settler population has grown consistently
at a rate of 5 percent annually
over the past two decades,
three times the rate of increase of the Israeli population as a whole.
[These are facts which seem to be ignored by the apologists for Israel in America.
All they want to talk about is “natural growth.”]

Together with the Jewish population of East Jerusalem
(itself illegally annexed to Israel),
the settlers today number more than half a million people:
just over 10 percent of the Jewish population of so-called Greater Israel.
This is one reason why settlers count for so much in Israeli elections,
where proportional representation gives undue political leverage
to even the smallest constituency.
[I must admit I don't really understand why that is.]



If Israel is drunk on settlements,
the United States has long been its enabler.
Were Israel not the leading beneficiary of American foreign aid —
averaging $2.8 billion a year from 2003 to 2007,
and scheduled to reach $3.1 billion by 2013 —
houses in West Bank settlements would not be so cheap:
often less than half the price of equivalent homes in Israel proper.

Many of the people who move to these houses
don’t even think of themselves as settlers.
Newly arrived from Russia and elsewhere,
they simply take up the offer of subsidized accommodation,
move into the occupied areas and become —
like peasants in southern Italy freshly supplied with roads and electricity —
the grateful clients of their political patrons.
Like American settlers heading west,
Israeli colonists in the West Bank
are the beneficiaries of their very own Homestead Act,
and they will be equally difficult to uproot.

Despite all the diplomatic talk of disbanding the settlements
as a condition for peace,
no one seriously believes that these communities —
with their half a million residents,
their urban installations,
their privileged access to fertile land and water —
will ever be removed.
The Israeli authorities, whether left, right or center,
have no intention of removing them,
and neither Palestinians nor informed Americans harbor illusions on this score.

[Call me uninformed, but I harbor what Judt calls an “illusion” on that score.
I think the appropriate American strategy is that spelled out in some detail
in the conclusion of Mearsheimer and Walt’s
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.
At least that way
America would no longer be responsible for enabling the on-going occupation.]

To be sure, it suits almost everyone to pretend otherwise —
to point to the 2003 “road map” and
speak of a final accord based on the 1967 frontiers.
But such feigned obliviousness is the small change of political hypocrisy,
the lubricant of diplomatic exchange
that facilitates communication and compromise.

There are occasions, however, when political hypocrisy is its own nemesis,
and this is one of them.
Because the settlements will never go,
and yet almost everyone likes to pretend otherwise,
we have resolutely ignored the implications of
what Israelis have long been proud to call “the facts on the ground.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, knows this better than most.
On June 14 he gave a much-anticipated speech
in which
he artfully blew smoke in the eyes of his American interlocutors.
While offering to acknowledge
the hypothetical existence of an eventual Palestinian state —
on the explicit understanding that it exercise no control over its airspace
and have no means of defending itself against aggression —
he reiterated the only Israeli position that really matters:
we won’t build illegal settlements
but we reserve the right to expand “legal” ones
according to their natural rate of growth.
(It is not by chance
that he chose to deliver this speech at Bar-Ilan University,
the heartland of rabbinical intransigence
where Yigal Amir learned to hate Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
before heading off to assassinate him in 1995.)

THE reassurances Mr. Netanyahu offered
the settlers and their political constituency
were as well received as ever,
despite being couched in honeyed clichés directed at nervous American listeners.
And the American news media, predictably, took the bait —
uniformly emphasizing Mr. Netanyahu’s “support” for a Palestinian state
and playing down everything else.

However, the real question now is
whether President Obama will respond in a similar vein.
He surely wants to.
Nothing could better please the American president and his advisors
than to be able to assert that, in the wake of his Cairo speech,
even Mr. Netanyahu had shifted ground and was open to compromise.
Thus Washington avoids a confrontation, for now, with its closest ally.
But the uncomfortable reality is that
the prime minister restated the unvarnished truth:
His government has no intention of recognizing international law or opinion
with respect to Israel’s land-grab in “Judea and Samaria.”

Thus President Obama faces a choice.
He can play along with the Israelis,
pretending to believe their promises of good intentions
and the significance of the distinctions they offer him.
Such a pretense would buy him time and favor with Congress.
But the Israelis would be playing him for a fool,
and he would be seen as one in the Mideast and beyond.

the president could break with two decades of American compliance,
acknowledge publicly that the emperor is indeed naked,
dismiss Mr. Netanyahu for the cynic he is and
remind Israelis that all their settlements are hostage to American goodwill.
He could also remind Israelis that

the illegal communities have nothing to do with Israel’s defense,
much less its founding ideals of agrarian self-sufficiency
and Jewish autonomy.
They are nothing but a colonial takeover
that the United States has no business subsidizing.

But if I am right,
and there is no realistic prospect of removing Israel’s settlements,
for the American government
to agree that the mere nonexpansion of “authorized” settlements
is a genuine step toward peace
would be the worst possible outcome of the present diplomatic dance.

No one else in the world believes this fairy tale; why should we?
Israel’s political elite would breathe an unmerited sigh of relief,
having once again pulled the wool over the eyes of its paymaster.
The United States would be humiliated in the eyes of its friends,
not to speak of its foes.
If America cannot stand up for its own interests in the region,
at least let it not be played yet again for a patsy.

Tony Judt is the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University
and the author of “Postwar”
and “Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century.”

A number of responding letters to the editor were published two days later,
on 2009-06-24: “A Heated Argument About Israel”.

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