• Woensdag, 24 April 2019
  • 19 Nisan, 5779

Likoed Nederland

Israel’s right in the disputed territories

Woensdag, December 30, 2009 / Last Modified: Zondag, Januari 14, 2018

By Mr. Ayalon, deputy foreign minister of Israel. December 30, 2009.

The recent statements by the European Union’s new foreign relations chief
Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel have once again brought international
attention to Jerusalem and the settlements. However, little appears to be truly
understood about Israel’s rights to what are generally called the “occupied
territories” but what really are “disputed territories.”

That’s because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered
“occupied” in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized
sovereignty before Israel’s conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never
been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as
its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.

The name “West Bank” was first used in 1950 by the Jordanians when they
the land to differentiate it from the rest of the country, which is on the east
bank of the river Jordan. The boundaries of this territory were set only one
year before during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that
the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish

It was at Jordan’s insistence that the 1949 armistice line became not a
recognized international border but only a line separating armies. The Armistice
Agreement specifically stated: “No provision of this Agreement shall in any way
prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the
peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement
being dictated exclusively by military considerations.” (Italics added.) This
boundary became the famous “Green Line,” so named because the military
during the armistice talks used a green pen to draw the line on the map.

After the Six Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel
the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank and other territory, the
United Nations sought to create an enduring solution to the conflict. U.N.
Security Council Resolution 242 is probably one of the most misunderstood
documents in the international arena. While many, especially the Palestinians,
push the idea that the document demands that Israel return everything captured
over the Green Line, nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution
calls for “peace within secure and recognized boundaries,” but nowhere does it
mention where those boundaries should be.

It is best to understand the intentions of the drafters of the resolution before
considering other interpretations. Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of
State for Political Affairs in 1967 and a drafter of the resolution, stated in
1990: “Security Council Resolution 242 and (subsequent U.N. Security Council
Resolution) 338… rest on two principles, Israel may administer the territory
until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should
withdraw to “secure and recognized borders,” which need not be the same as
Armistice Demarcation Lines of 194.”

Lord Caradon, the British U.N. Ambassador at the time and the resolution’s
drafter who introduced it to the Council, said in 1974 unequivocally that, “It
would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4,
1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, former Supreme Court Justice
Goldberg, made the issue even clearer when he stated in 1973 that, “the
resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the
extent of withdrawal.” This would encompass “less than a complete withdrawal
Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel’s prior frontiers had
proven to be notably insecure.”

Even the Soviet delegate to the U.N., Vasily Kuznetsov, who fought against the
final text, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to “withdraw its
forces only to those lines it considers appropriate.”

After the war in 1967, when Jews started returning to their historic heartland
in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as the territory had been known
the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it, the issue of
settlements arose. However, Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish
settlement in these territories. He maintained that the original British Mandate
of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said “the Jewish right of
settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West
Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable.

That right has never been terminated and
cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its
neighbors.” There is no internationally binding document pertaining to this
territory that has nullified this right of Jewish settlement since.

And yet, there is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that
the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to
it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this
narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to
come to the negotiating table. Statements like those of Lady Ashton’s are not
only incorrect; they push a negotiated solution further away.

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