The United Nations Security Council has voted to condemn the building of Israeli settlements in what it calls the west bank (or, more precisely, the West Bank) and what Israel calls Judea and Samaria. I have become so used to these different terms that I no longer think about them, but that is a mistake on my part, and I shall probably come back to it.

The motion was passed thanks to the US declining to support Israel this time, which is, I suppose, Barack Obama showing his spite while he still can, but I don't want here to talk about the United States, I want to talk about the United Nations.

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Just as the European Union has become a hiding place for scoundrels (which was just one reason I voted, in the UK's referendum, to leave), the UN has become a hiding place for scoundrels also. I do not intend to rehearse here the obscene amount of time and effort the UN spends on tackling Israel, as opposed to the real problems of the world, let alone the one just the other side of the Golan Heights, because better commentators than me do so regularly.



I said just now that I want to talk about the United Nations, but that is not strictly true, because what I really want to talk about is international law, which I know very little about so I am not going to talk about the rights and wrongs, I am going to talk about something I find very difficult to comprehend, which is why the UN, an organisation that surely should know a thing or two about the subject, appears, to my uneducated mind, to ignore it.

I welcome comments and corrections on this subject, but here is how I see it from outside Israel. The UN resolution refers to Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. I don't believe they mean Palestinian land like at Amona, which is about legal title, what they surely mean is sovereign Palestinian land, the only logical interpretation of the term. Now, again I must beg the reader to excuse my naivete, but I have difficulty understanding just what is meant by sovereign Palestinian land.

Since there has never been a state of Palestine (and let's not go into the obvious fact that the reason for that is that the Palestinian Arabs declined to accept UN Resolution 181 in 1947, giving them one), under which international law is there such a thing as Palestinian land? I get it that the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction over Area A but as far as I am aware the issue is not that Israel is building settlements in Area A, and I therefore have some difficulty comprehending why the international community insists on saying the settlements are illegal because they are on Palestinian territory. This is my problem. Under which law, and I do mean law, not agreement, because the point is that they are called 'illegal', is anywhere other than Area A Palestinian?

The legal point being, surely, that by definition the settlements cannot be on Palestinian land. Disputed yes, but Palestinian no. To be called Palestinian it would have to come under Palestinian sovereignty, which it plainly does not, not least because there is no such entity as Palestine, and neither has there ever been. Need I remind the reader that the Palestinian Authority, in any case, is not the same thing as Palestine?

I must also here address the continuing anomaly that the international community refers to the west bank as occupied. My understanding of this word in law is that an existing sovereign entity must have been usurped for a territory to be called occupied, but I am unable to understand whose sovereignty was usurped when Israel took the west bank. Jordan's? Jordan occupied the west bank by force, so plainly not them. Britain's? A League of Nations mandate was not the same thing as sovereignty, but in any case we all know how that ended. Turkey's then? Let us not even go there. The closest I can see is that Israel occupied the territory in contravention of UN Resolution 181, but I hardly think a UN Resolution constitutes sovereignty. And in any case, Jordan already occupied the territory in contravention of that Resolution, as well as the whole of Jerusalem, which, in case anyone has forgotten, was proposed not as sovereign territory at all by 181. So I have a real problem with the assumption of occupation, and I have another problem with the assumption of occupation of Palestinian sovereign territory.

Which brings me to something else I don't understand. I listened to the speech made just after the vote by Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. He's a likeable sort of chap, and he speaks better than the last one, who inexplicably seemed to find everything amusing, but the issue I have is that he went on about the one thing that no-one cares about and that is surely utterly irrelevant, the Jews' historical ties to the land.

Do Israelis actually believe that anyone gives a moment's thought to the Bible when they debate Israel? It's a dead horse and Israeli politicians really need to stop flogging it. It impresses precisely nobody. In fact I should go as far as to say it makes Israel look silly. Winning this war, and make no mistake it is a war, with the Torah in one hand is puerile. I don't dispute Biblical connection, because it's not my area of interest, but what I do know is that this is the real world, and it does not revolve around an ancient book, it revolves around Realpolitik. I'm sorry if that offends anyone of a religious bent, but there it is.

The whole world believes Israel has stolen a place called Palestine, and the whole world needs to be put right. Israel's argument is the legal one, not we have the right because we were here three thousand years ago. It doesn't matter whether the land is called Judea and Samaria or the west bank. What matters is that, in law, it is not called Palestine.


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