This might be a touchy subject for many of you.
I totally understand.
If you have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for any length of time, you have probably heard over and over again that the Israeli settlements are illegal. It’s very likely that you have also heard that there can be no peace in the region if Israel continues to build settlements.
It’s a common belief that has been perpetuated by the left and other critics of Israel. Not only that, the United Nations has repeatedly condemned Israel for its settlement activities. It’s easy to think that the media and the international community are telling you the truth about the volatile situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
They’re not telling you the truth. They’re lying to you. And they have been doing this for decades.
The objective of this post isn’t to pretend that Israel has been perfect in this conflict. Like every other nation, they have made mistakes. The objective is to identify the real barrier to peace.
If you’ve followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for any period of time, you’ve heard about the settlements, but many don’t actually know what they are.
In this post, I will show you why the Israeli settlements do not violate international law. I will also show you that these settlements are not the true impediment to the peace process.
The settlements are Jewish communities built in the West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem. Israel had also built settlements in the Gaza Strip before they withdrew from the territory in 2005. The population sizes vary. A Jewish settlement can have between several hundred to several thousand people.
Most of the settlements are rural, but there are also more metropolitan settlements. They have their own schools and shopping centers. There are currently 121 settlements in the West Bank.
Israel has had settlements in the disputed territories for decades; but, these settlements have been a huge source of controversy since 1967.
To the leftist mainstream media, it’s a given that the Israeli settlements are illegal. The left has done a great job of painting these settlements as an example of Israeli wrongdoing.
The most recent resolution that was passed by the United Nations also labeled Israeli settlements as illegal. Throughout the history of this conflict, one of the U.N.’s top priorities has been condemning Israel for its settlement activities while ignoring atrocities committed by other nations. Over and over again, the organization has shown itself to be unfairly biased against the Jewish state.
Don’t believe me? Check this out…
In 2016, the U.N. passed 20 anti-Israel resolutions. They only passed 3 resolutions condemning other nations. These nations are Syria, Iran, and North Korea; all of which have committed acts that were far more atrocious than anything that Israel has done. Anyone can see that this shows an immensely unfair bias against Israel.
But are the settlements truly illegal?
Let’s take a look at what international law really says about Israel’s settlement activity.
In 1924, the Palestinian Mandate was enacted by the League of Nations, which was the precursor to the United Nations. This mandate gave the Jews the right to settle in their own territory. This means they were able to build settlements in the lands allotted to them under the agreement.
At this time, the West Bank and Gaza strip were considered to be disputed territories. They were administered by Jordan and Egypt respectively. They ruled these lands with no complaints from the international community…until 1967.
In 1967, the Six Day War erupted. Israel fought a war of self defense against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Defensive wars were not new to Israel. Since the founding of the modern state of Israel, Arab nations had made multiple attempts to destroy the Jewish state.
Israel won the war. As a result, they took the West Bank, Gaza strip, and the Golan Heights. Since then, they have administered these territories just as Jordan, Egypt, and Syria had done previously.
After the war was over, the United Nations adopted Resolution 242. Under this resolution, Israel was allowed to administer both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The left, and other opponents of Israel state that resolution 242 prohibits Israel from administering and building settlements on the disputed territories. They cite the passage that addresses the “inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by war.” On its own, this passage would seem to make Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories illegal.
Of course, the problem is that Israel’s critics don’t tell you what the rest of the resolution says. This passage applies only to offensive wars; a nation is not allowed to claim territory if it instigated the war it fought. This passage does not apply to the nations that are fighting to defend themselves.
This is a key component. Why?
Because if this passage applied to both the aggressor and the defender, it would only serve to encourage nations to start wars with other nations. Think about it for a second…if a nation can’t take territory that it won while defending itself, the aggressor country would have little to lose if they were defeated in a war they started, right?
Resolution 242 was meant to deter nations from forcefully taking land from other nations. The hard truth is that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria started the Six-Day war. They lost. That’s how Israel acquired the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights.
International law does not prohibit Israel from building on land that it acquired in a defensive war.
So…if you look at international law, it’s easy to see that Israeli settlements aren’t illegal. It is building settlements in territories that they acquired through defending itself.
So how else can critcs claim that Israel shouldn’t be allowed to build settlements? Great question!
They will argue that Israeli settlements are the main impediment to achieving peace. The United Nations’ recent resolution also stated this.
It makes sense, right?
Even if Israel is legally allowed to build settlements, it’s still a bad idea if it causes more violence. The fact that an action is lawful doesn’t make it beneficial. It’d be a great argument if it wasn’t so obviously false. History has shown that the settlements aren’t the true obstacle to peace.
If you look at the facts, it’s clear that the real obstacle to peace is the Palestinians’ stubborn refusal to negotiate with Israel. They have repeatedly squashed any real promise of a peaceful solution while Israel has taken numerous actions to show that it is willing to compromise.
Here are some examples:
- In 2000, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to take down dozens of settlements in the disputed territories in exchange for peace. The Palestinians rejected this offer.
- In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew Israeli citizens from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria. The Palestinians in these territories elected terrorist group Hamas as their government. Terrorist attacks continued.
- In 2008, Israel offered to withdraw from 94% of the West Bank and partition Jerusalem in exchange for a peace agreement. The Palestinians rejected the deal.
- In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a freeze on Israeli settlements for 10 months. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to negotiate for peace during this time period.
These are just a few of the peace overtures that Israel has made over the decades spanning the conflict.
As previously stated, I’m not arguing that Israel has been perfect. I’m writing this to show that the narrative that has been told by the left isn’t the truth. It’s a story built on lies. If there is going to be a peaceful solution, we can’t operate on false assumptions…we have to look at the facts.
The situation in Judea and Samaria is heartbreaking. Myriad lives have been lost on both sides. But the main reason why the violence continues isn’t the settlements. The settlements are a red herring used by the left to bash Israel.
If you look at this situation objectively, you can understand the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to work towards peace. Palestinians and Israelis continue to be killed because the Palestinian leadership and other Arab nations refuse to recognize that Israel has a right to exist.
Until the Palestinians are willing to truly work with Israel, there won’t be peace.