The complex legality of settlements

The misuse of international law as a tool of political condemnation is especially unhelpful right now.

By PETER WERTHEIM
September 15, 2013 13:01
3 minute read.
The basic error is to treat all the settlements alike

The basic error is to treat all the settlements alike. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

 
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For David Kretzmer, “The chickens come home to roost” (August 26), mere legal opinions can harden into established norms in the field of international law if large numbers of eminent lawyers support those opinions, even if other equally eminent lawyers do not. Further, Kretzmer suggests that black-letter norms are also established when a large majority of states repeatedly pronounce certain activities of another state to be illegal, even if the said majority behave in much the same way or worse in analogous situations. Fortunately for Israel, and common sense, binding rules of international law are not made that way.


The hazards of adopting a ‘black and white’ moralistic approach to questions of international law – especially in connection with the Israel- Palestinian conflict – were laid bare by Prof. Michael Curtis of Rutgers University in a groundbreaking article in 1991. To paraphrase Curtis, dogmatic generalisations about the legality or illegality of Israel’s West Bank settlements belong in the realm of polemics, not serious legal analysis.


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