Letter for publication
Sub: Settlements and International Law (Moshe Gorali: "Legality is in the Eye of the Beholder" - 7 October)
Moshe Gorali's article "Legality is in the Eye of the Beholder" (7 October) buries the straightforward international law relating to the settlements in unnecessary complexity.
As Gorali notes, the current assertion that the settlements are illegal is based on the paragraph (6) of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which provides that "The occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territory it occupies." However under Article 2, the Convention applies only "to cases of . occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, by another such Party". The result is that, since the Territories do not belong to any other sovereign state, Israel is not an occupying Power within the meaning of the Convention, which simply does not apply.
It is also significant that the aim of the Fourth Geneva Convention is to provide humanitarian protection in occupied territory. Article 49 contributes to this aim by outlawing the forceful deportation or transfer of unwilling populations. This does not apply to the settlements, and no other serious humanitarian consideration of the type contemplated by the Convention arises.
It follows that charges of illegality, inflated to "war crimes", levied against the settlements, are mere propaganda.
None of this implies any judgment about the advisability of the existing settlements, the future of which is in any case reserved for the final status negotiations under the Oslo Accords. Meanwhile future settlement activity is arguably governed by the interim power-sharing agreements under the Accords, which is another question altogether.
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