Letter: West Bank settlements are not ‘illegal’


Australian Financial Review – 11 September 2013

West Bank settlements are not ‘illegal’

On the issue of Israeli settlements, Tony Walker erroneously claimed that the US considers Israeli West Bank settlements “illegal”. Yet he then correctly quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the US views them as “illegitimate” (“About-face risks world of trouble“, AFR, September 7).

Legally and diplomatically, there is a world of difference between the two words. While the Carter administration saw settlements as illegal, all US administrations since 1981 have explicitly rejected this terminology. In fact, as recently as February 2011, Washington’s UN Ambassador said she vetoed a UN Security Council resolution in large part because the White House could not accept language in the resolution branding Israeli settlements as “illegal”.

The only reason why settlement “legality” has become such a contentious issue is largely due to Arab countries succeeding in promulgating a less-than-faithful interpretation of international law at the UN. There is a strong case that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank and that, even if it does, was never intended to make voluntary population movements illegal. Current growth in settlements does not threaten a two-state resolution because no new West Bank settlements are being built, existing settlements take up less than 2 per cent of the West Bank, and their boundaries are not being expanded.

Ahron Shapiro
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council
South Melbourne, Vic