As I See It: Israel, not the West, stands for international law

The West maintains that Israel occupies Palestinian territory in the “West Bank.” This is untrue. There has never been any “Palestinian territory.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UN General Assembly (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UN General Assembly
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After the death of Shimon Peres, BBC radio’s flagship current affairs show Today interviewed Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.
The presenter persistently suggested to him that Peres’s record as a peacemaker ran contrary to Israel’s subsequent record of failure to make peace with the Palestinians, and that the absence of a two-state solution was all the fault of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Her questioning reflected the grotesque false assumption underlying Western hostility toward Israel: that if only it wasn’t so belligerent there would be peace. Repeatedly challenged with this claim, Regev refused to engage. Instead he mouthed platitudes about how Peres would always have answered such a question with hope and optimism about a peaceful solution.
This was a missed opportunity. The overwhelming requirement for Israel is always to nail the big lie behind the questions thrown at it.
Regev should have said that the reason for the absence of a two-state solution was displayed last week at the UN, where the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a speech expressing hostility to Israel’s very existence.
He falsely presented the Jews of Israel as squatters in the Palestinians’ own land. He even demanded that Britain apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which first committed Britain to reestablish the Jewish homeland in what was then called Palestine.
Through this declaration, said Abbas, Britain had given “without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people.”
This preposterous speech was notable for three things. First, it rewrote the Jews out of their own history by fabricating an entirely fictitious Palestinian story. The only people for whom the Land of Israel and the disputed territories have ever been their national kingdom are the Jews.
Second, Abbas blamed Israel for his own people’s aggression and murderous violence over the Temple Mount.
Third, his speech showed that the Palestinians’ complaint is not about the absence of a state of their own. It is about the existence of Israel which they want gone.
The full speech received no mainstream coverage in the West. Abbas could be confident, however, that it reflected two entirely false Western beliefs: that Israel acts in contravention of international law, and that the land originally belonged to the Palestinians.
With the West duly softened up, Abbas is thought to be planning a maneuver at the UN. He says he will be pushing a UN Security Council resolution against the settlements. What worries Israel more is the rumor that President Obama will refuse to veto a proposed French UN resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.
If Obama does this, the US will be complicit in tearing up international law and bringing into being a terrorist state whose existential purpose is the extermination of Israel.
As the international law expert Prof. Eugene Kontorovich argued in The Washington Post in September, the proposed French measure repudiates UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in the wake of the Six Day War. Resolution 242 represented a territorial compromise, with Israel agreeing to cede some but not all the territories it seized during the Six Day War in return for peace.
According to Kontorovich the French resolution, which would push Israel back behind the 1949 “Auschwitz” armistice lines, would repudiate 242 and amount to “a fundamental reversal of 50 years of Middle East diplomacy.”
Instead of a negotiated settlement, the US would therefore not only be aiding the unilateral imposition of a new terrorist entity in the Middle East but would also show its contempt for international law.
In fact the US, Britain and Europe have long displayed this contempt by supporting the big lie that Israel behaves illegally or belligerently.
The West maintains that Israel occupies Palestinian territory in the “West Bank.” This is untrue. There has never been any “Palestinian territory.”
Israel’s presence in the disputed territories cannot be legally defined as an occupation. Under the Hague and Geneva conventions, an occupation can only take place on sovereign land. The territories were never anyone’s sovereign land.
Israel is furthermore entitled under international law to continue to hold onto them as a defensive measure as long as its Arab aggressors continue to use them for belligerent ends.
The West says Israel’s settlements are illegal. This is also untrue.
In the 20s, the Mandate for Palestine gave Britain the legally binding duty to settle the Jews throughout what is now not just Israel but the disputed territories too. That Jewish right has never been abrogated.
The Geneva conventions, cited as the reason the settlements are illegal, prohibit an occupying power from transferring people en masse into occupied territory. This was drafted after World War II to prevent any repetition of the Nazis’ forced displacement of peoples. Israelis resident in the disputed territories, however, have not been transferred but moved there through their own free choice.
Kontorovich has looked at every modern example where occupied territories have been settled. In none of them did the international community denounce such action as illegal or demand that settlers had to vacate the land as a condition for peace or independence. If world powers asked the occupying force to withdraw, they referred only to the army and not the settler population. The only exception has been Israel.
The West makes a fetish of international law. Yet it denounces Israel, the one Middle East state that upholds it. It’s time to call out the US, Britain and Europe for aiding the repudiation of law and justice and thus helping promote the Arab agenda of exterminating Israel.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).