The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has today welcomed the statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announcing the result of a US government review concluding that “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements [in the West Bank] is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein AM said, “Pompeo’s announcement regarding the US stance on settlements is both a victory for common sense and a positive step toward a genuine two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“The argument that the settlements are illegal, which rests primarily on article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, was always fundamentally flawed on two levels. Firstly, the West Bank is not ‘occupied’ under the terms of that convention because it is not the recognised territory of a signatory of that convention, as its provisions require. Secondly, even setting this objection aside, the interpretation of Article 49 used to argue any Israeli civilian presence in the West Bank is contrary to the convention is tendentious, contrary to the intention of the convention’s authors, and applied to no other conflict area anywhere in the world.”
Dr. Rubenstein added that “Pompeo was also correct in pointing out that, ‘there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace. This is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.’ The truth is that the false claim that all settlements are illegal – denying the Jewish people any claim to central parts of their historic homeland – has long been a barrier to the successful negotiations which are the only way to resolve the long-running dispute over the West Bank and other disputed territories and create a secure and lasting two-state outcome.”
“AIJAC is grateful to the US Administration for their well-reasoned review of this issue and sensible stance conducive to progress toward peace. We also wish to thank the Australian Government for its positive contributions on this issue, such as then-Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statement in January 2014 questioning why settlements should be considered illegal before later adding ‘I don’t think it’s helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you’re going to get a negotiated solution.’ That stance, in effect a precursor to Secretary Pompeo’s current announcement, seems consistent with Australian Government policy to this day,” he concluded.