Friday, June 12, 2020

Not ‘annexation’ or ‘occupied territory’: Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria - by Yechiel M. Leiter

Critics of Israel’s anticipated sovereignty move claim that it contravenes international law and will spark violence, destabilize the region and cost Israel European and Democratic support. A calmer and more accurate assessment indicates otherwise.

Yechiel M. Leiter..
11 June '20..

Public castigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by American Jewish leaders of the “anyone-but-Bibi” crowd are nothing new, but it appears that the promise of imminent “annexation” has thrown them into an unprecedented frenzy. There has been a cascade of articles issuing dire warnings about the consequences should Israel’s elected government follow through on Netanyahu’s campaign promise to apply Israeli law in parts of Judea and Samaria.

Criticisms of the anticipated decision come in different forms, and when taken in the aggregate, paint a very bleak picture: the move contravenes international law; the Palestinians will erupt in violence; it will destabilize Jordan and the entire region; Israel will lose the support of Europe; the Democrats will abandon Israel; Netanyahu doesn’t have the mandate to act unilaterally.

A calmer, and most importantly more accurate assessment of the facts is in order.

Extension of Israeli law in Israel’s heartland: Not ‘annexation’ or ‘occupied territory’

For language to be meaningful, terminology must be precise. According to international law, “occupied territory” is a term that refers to an area that was sovereign in one state and occupied by another state; applying state sovereignty in order to make the occupation permanent would be “annexation.” This is decidedly not the case with regard to Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria and hence these terms are irrelevant.

The Jewish people are the only people in fact who have a recognized legal right over Judea and Samaria. This legal affirmation was enshrined in the mandate drafted and approved by 51 principle members of the League of Nations guaranteeing the “right of Jewish people to reconstitute their national home” in the Land of Israel (1922), thereby recognizing a preexisting historical right. This was ratified by the United Nations upon its establishment and that section of the U.N. Charter has never been altered by any state. Judea and Samaria have never been under the sovereignty of any other country than the State of Israel. Jordan’s invasion of the territory in 1948 and its subsequent attempt to annex them in 1950 was opposed internationally with the exception of Britain, Iraq and Pakistan.

The internationally recognized doctrine of boundaries in the post-colonial era (Uti Possidetis Juris) states that the boundaries of a new state are identical to those of the administrative entity that preceded it. Because the administrative entity that preceded the State of Israel was the British Mandate, in whose hands the League of Nations placed the responsibility of fulfilling the mission of Jewish statehood, the recognized boundaries of the State of Israel are those inherited from the British Mandate.

(Continue to Full Column)

Yechiel M. Leiter, Ph.D., is a scholar at the Kohelet Policy Forum and heads the international department of the Shiloh Forum. He has served in a number of government positions, and as an adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. His book, “John Locke’s Political Theory and the Hebrew Bible” was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

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