Hey presto! Now it’s kosher: tricks that make settlements ‘legal’
The Trick of Netanyahu – Establishing new settlements and Deceiving the public
Media release, Peace Now
The spokesperson of the Israeli Government just published a short press release, of 22 words in Hebrew: “The Ministerial Team that was nominated by the Government, decided to legalize the settlement points of Sansana, Rechelim and Bruchin, which were established during the 90’s based on previous governments decisions”.
This Ministerial Team of four ministers was a trick set by the Israeli Government to deceive the Israeli public. According to the law, in order to establish new settlements, the plenary of the government must make an official government resolution. In order to avoid this declaration, the government “nominated” the four ministers on Sunday to make the resolution in the name of the government. The Israeli public, and the press, that were ready for the dramatic declaration at the Sunday cabinet meeting, could not find the decision at the protocol. Instead, the government nominated four ministers to “further discuss the issue”. Now, with this short announcement (at the eve of the Memorial Day when the media is not free to deal with any other issue), we are informed that the ministerial team was a trick, meant to avoid public criticism.
Peace Now: “The Netanyahu government is trying to deceive the public and hide its true policy. However, Netanyahu’s tricks cannot hide the fact that in stead of going to peace the government is announcing the establishment of three new settlements, for the first time since 1990. This announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two states solution”
For more details on the establishment of the three settlements, see here.
Illegal Settlements Bonanza: Israel Plots an Endgame
Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine.
By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle
Israel’s colonization policies are entering an alarming new phase, comparable in historic magnitude to the original plans to colonize Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem following the war of 1967.
On April 24, an Israeli ministerial committee approved three settlement outposts – Bruchin and Rechelim in the northern part of the West Bank, and Sansana in the south. Although all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal by international law, Israeli law differentiates between sanctioned settlements and ‘illegal’ ones. This distinction has actually proved to be no more than a disingenuous attempt at conflating international law, which is applicable to occupied lands, and Israeli law, which is in no way relevant.
Since 1967, Israel [has] placed occupied Palestinian land, privately owned or otherwise, into various categories. One of these categories is ‘state-owned’, as in obtained by virtue of military occupation. For many years, the ‘state-owned’ occupied land was allotted to various purposes. Since 1990, however, the Israeli government refrained from establishing settlements, at least formally. Now, according to the Israeli anti-settlement group, Peace Now, “instead of going to peace the government is announcing the establishment of three new settlements…this announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two states solution”
Although the group argues that the four-man committee did not have the authority to make such a decision, it actually matters little. Every physical space in the occupied territories – whether privately owned or ‘state owned’, ‘legally’ obtained or ‘illegally’ obtained – is free game. The extremist Jewish settlers, whose tentacles are reaching far and wide, chasing out Palestinians at every corner, haven’t received such empowering news since the heyday of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The move regarding settlements is not an isolated one. The Israeli government is now challenging the very decisions made by the Israeli Supreme Court, which has been used as a legitimization platform for many illegal settlements that drove Palestinians from their land.
On April 27, the Israeli government reportedly asked the high court to delay the demolition of an ‘unauthorized’ West Bank outpost in the Beit El settlement which was scheduled to take place on May 1st. The land, even by Israeli legal standards, is considered private Palestinian land, and the Israeli government had committed to the court to take down the illegal outposts – again, per Israeli definition – on the specified date.
Now the rightwing Netanyahu government is having another change of heart. In its request to the court, the government argued: “The evacuation of the buildings could carry social, political and operational ramifications for construction in Beit El and other settlements.” Such an argument, if applied in the larger context of the occupied territories, could easily justify why no outposts should be taken down. It could eradicate, once and for all, such politically inconvenient terms such as ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’.
“Previous Israeli governments have pledged to demolish the unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank, but only a handful have been removed,” according to CNN online. In fact, that ‘handful’ are likely to be rebuilt, amongst many more new outposts, now that the new legal precedence is underway.
Michael Sfard, an attorney with Yesh Din, which reportedly advocates Palestinian rights, described the request as “an announcement of war by the Israeli government against the rule of law.” More specifically, “they said clearly that they have reached a decision not to evacuate illegal construction on private Palestinian property.”
Some analysts suggested that Netanyahu was bowing down to the more rightwing elements in his cabinet – as if the man had, till now, been a peacemaker. The bottom line is that Israel has decided embark on a new and dangerous phase, one that violates not only international law, but Israel’s own self-tailored laws that were designed to colonize the occupied territories. It appears that even those precarious ‘laws’ are no longer capable of meeting the colonial appetite of Israeli settlers and the ruling class.
Israeli settlements have been contextualized through Israeli legal and political references, as opposed to references commonly accepted in international law. The emphasis on differences between Israeli governments, political parties and religious/ultra-nationalist settlement movements is distracting and misleading; colonizing the rest of historic Palestine has been and remains a national Israeli project.
An article in the rightwing Israeli Jerusalem Post agrees. “Support for settlement is not simply a program of right-of-center Likud. Its history has firm roots in Labor party activity during the periods of its governments, and activities by predecessors of the Labor party going back before the creation of the Israeli state” (April 27).
The only variable that might be worth examining is the purpose of the settlement, not the settlement itself. Following the war of 1967, the Allon plan sought to annex more than 30 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza for security purposes. It stipulated the establishment of a “security corridor” along the Jordan River, as well outside the “Green Line”, a one-sided Israeli demarcation of its borders with the West Bank. Then, there was no Likud party to demonize, for that was the Labor party’s vision for the newly occupied territories.
While the Israeli settlement drive since then has swallowed much of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, populating them with over half a million Israelis, the international community’s response was as moot in 1967 as it is now in 2012. Responding to the latest sanctioning of illegal outposts, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared that he was “deeply troubled” by the news. Meanwhile, Russia was ‘deeply concerned’ and so was the EU’s Catherine Ashton. As for the US, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland insisted that the Israeli measure is not “helpful to the process.” What process?
While Israel has now showed all of its cards, and the international community declared its complacency or impotence, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah continues to plan some kind of UN censure of the settlements. Even if a watered-down version of some UN draft managed to survive the US veto, what are the chances of Israel heeding the call of international community?
There is no doubt that Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine, which sees Palestinians continuing to subsist in physical fragmentation and permanent occupation. Unless a popular Palestinian uprising takes hold, no one is likely to challenge what is actually an Israeli declaration of war against the Palestinian people.
Attorney Tamar Feldman, Director of ACRI’s Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Department, sent a letter on Thursday (19.4.12) to Justice (ret.) Edmund Levy, Chair of the Committee to Examine the State of Construction in Judea and Samaria, addressing the fundamental flaw that undermines the committee’s mandate, which is the attempt to distinguish between legal settlements and unauthorized outposts in the Occupied Territories.
Attorney Feldman’s letter argues that the premise of such a dichotomy is inherently flawed:
“Authorized” settlements and “unauthorized” outposts are not distinguishable from each other on grounds of their illegality under International Humanitarian Law or by the severe harm they each inflict upon a range of human rights of the Palestinian residents of the West Bank. In fact, they are also not entirely distinguishable from each other in terms of the support they receive from state authorities. Unauthorized outposts, which began to crop up after Israel’s pledge in the mid-1990s not to establish new settlements, have so far not been given official approval by Israeli governments, but their existence has relied on government aid in matters of security, infrastructure, and even planning.
The Levy Committee, as it is called in the Israeli press, was created in late January in the wake of heated public discourse and high profile court cases concerning unauthorized outposts like Migron. Its letter of appointment, which was signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman, states that, in accordance with policy on the settlements, “generally, illegal building that occurs on private land will be removed, while the planning status of structures located on State lands will be regulated by the appropriate professional ranks.”
ACRI’s letter highlighted the problematic distinction between private land and public land in occupied territory. In the event that a settlement is built on private land, it constitutes a clear violation of international law prohibiting the confiscation of private property. When a settlement is built on public land, it constitutes a violation of the prohibition on the exploitation of resources of the occupied territory for the needs and benefit of the occupying power – a prohibition the High Court has upheld on several occasions. Both types of construction in the territories constitute clear and blatant violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which concerns the protection of civilians during war.
According to Attorney Feldman, “Israeli governments – past and present – have forgotten and caused the public to forget the basic legal principle according to which an occupying power is obligated to act as a temporary trustee of the territory it occupies. In order for the committee to meet and comply with international law and prevent further aggravation of the violation of the human rights of Palestinians, it must conclude unequivocally that it is impossible to retroactively sanction Israeli construction established in the territories illegally.”
Click here for complete letter: