President Obama demands that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) be completely frozen as a precondition to peace negotiations with the Palestinians. If Barack Obama considers the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria an obstacle to peace, let him study objectively the course of events that took place in the 1980s. He would surely learn that it was the expansion of the Jewish settlements that drove the Palestinians to the negotiating table, which ultimately led to the Oslo Accords.
In the mid-1980s, Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat boasted: “The womb of the Palestinian woman will defeat the Zionist.” Shortly thereafter, large waves of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia arrived in Israel (some of them moved to the settlements) and defused the discussion in Israel over the demographic “time bomb.”
More significantly, in 1988, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) summit endorsed United Nations Resolution 242 and proceeded to declare an independent Palestinian state. The actions of the PNC came at least in part as a reaction to Ariel Sharon’s significant buildup of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. The PNC called additionally for “the annulment of all expropriation and annexation measures and the removal of the settlements established by Israel in the Palestinian and Arab territories since 1967.”
A month later, at UN headquarters in Geneva, Arafat was promised a dialogue with the U.S. if he would “renounce terrorism, and recognize the State of Israel.” At a hastily arranged press conference, Arafat mumbled the words demanded by the Americans, words he was unable to bring himself to utter at the UN session the day before.
Arafat was ultimately driven to do so in recognition of Israel’s establishing facts on the ground and the realization that unless they began to negotiate — preferably with the Americans — there would be nothing left to negotiate over.
The Palestinians and their western sympathizers contend that the “Jewish settlements” are “illegal” according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which sought to protect against future atrocities such as those committed by the Nazis.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention is often cited as the basis by which the settlements are deemed to be “illegal.” However, the wording, which prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers” and contains a prohibition not to “deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population,” clearly contradicts the fact that those who settled in the land did so voluntarily. Furthermore, the land in question, which had been occupied by Egypt and Jordan since 1948, was captured by Israel in 1967 during a defensive war.
Eugene V. Rostow, former dean of Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969, noted that “the government of Israel neither ‘deported’ Palestinians nor ‘transferred’ Israelis during or after 1967.” Jewish property owners began to return to their previous homes in Hebron in 1968, acting on their own volition without government authorization.
Rostow also pointed out that the Geneva Convention applied only to acts by one signatory “carried out on the territory of another.” The West Bank, however, did not belong to any signatory power, for Jordan had no sovereign rights or legal claims there. Its legal status was defined as “an unallocated part of the British Mandate.”