November 19, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Intercepts 4 Rockets Fired from Syria - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Four rockets fired from Syria were intercepted over the Golan Heights by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the IDF said Tuesday.
    Israeli defense sources said the rockets were fired at the command of Iran.
    Shortly thereafter, explosions were heard in Damascus in an area populated by Hizbullah and pro-Iran militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

UN Says Iran Amassing Heavy Water in Fresh Breach of Nuclear Deal - Francois Murphy (Reuters)
    The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to member states that "Iran's stock of heavy water was 131.5 metric tons," exceeding the limit of 130 tons in the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Israel Proposes Long-Term Economic Development Plan for West Bank Palestinians - David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
    Israel has presented to senior members of the Trump administration a major, long-term economic proposal to employ a quarter of a million Palestinians in Israeli-run West Bank industrial zones, and to develop up to two dozen major West Bank Biblical tourism sites with a focus on Evangelical Christian visitors, Likud MK Nir Barkat, the former Jerusalem mayor who is behind the plan, said in an interview.
    He noted that his plan will not cost America and the rest of the world anything.

Taking the "Illegal" Out of "Settlements" Alters the Parameters of the Conversation - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Almost any time you read an article in the international media about the settlements, somewhere the term "illegal settlement" will appear.
    On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that this is not the case, that the U.S. does not believe that the settlements are illegal.
    This alters the parameters of the conversation because the U.S. is a rather significant member of the international community and does not share that view.
    Decoupling the words "illegal" from "Israeli settlements" is now formal U.S. policy.

Israel's Amos-17 Satellite Reaches Final Orbit (Reuters)
    Israel's Space Communications said on Monday its Amos-17 communication satellite, launched in August, has completed its in-orbit testing and reached its final position.
    Amos-17 will provide communication services to Africa and should begin commercial operations shortly.

"Hatikvah" Played in Abu Dhabi as Israeli Takes Gold in Ju-Jitsu (Times of Israel)
    Israel's national anthem was played in Abu Dhabi on Saturday after Alon Leviev, 17, took gold in the junior category at the Ju-jitsu World Championship.
    Last year the UAE reversed its policy of banning athletes from the Jewish state from using Israeli symbols such as the flag and anthem at tournaments after an outcry.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Israeli Settlements Are Not Illegal
    Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said Monday in Washington: "U.S. public statements on [Israeli] settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades. In 1978, the Carter administration categorically concluded that Israel's establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. However, in 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that conclusion and stated that he didn't believe that the settlements were inherently illegal....After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law."
        "The conclusion that we will no longer recognize Israeli settlements as per se inconsistent with international law is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank."
        "Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn't worked. It hasn't advanced the cause of peace. The hard truth is there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and 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 the Israelis and the Palestinians."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also below U.S. Policy Change on Israeli Settlements: A Long Awaited Correction - Dore Gold (Israel Hayom)
  • U.S. Ending Sanctions Waiver for Site Where Iran Resumed Uranium Enrichment - Rebecca Kheel
    "The United States will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the nuclear facility at Fordow effective Dec. 15, 2019," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday, referring to a site where Iran recently announced it was enriching uranium. The U.S. had granted sanctions waivers to allow Europe, China and Russia to cooperate with Iran on converting nuclear facilities to nonmilitary purposes.
        Pompeo said, "The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world's largest state sponsor of terror is zero. Iran originally constructed Fordow as a fortified underground bunker to conduct secret uranium enrichment work, and there is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site."  (The Hill)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu: U.S. Statement on Settlements "Rights an Historical Wrong"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday: "The United States adopted an important policy that rights an historical wrong when the Trump administration clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law. This policy reflects an historical truth - that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea."
        "Israel remains ready and willing to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinians regarding all final status issues in an effort to achieve a durable peace but will continue to reject all arguments regarding the illegality of the settlements. Israel...calls upon all responsible countries who hope to advance peace to adopt a similar position."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israeli Opposition Lawmakers Laud U.S. Decision on Israeli Settlements - Jacob Magid
    Opposition Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz lauded the U.S. decision on settlements. "The fate of the settlements and the residents of Judea and Samaria should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and that can promote a peace that will serve both sides while reflecting the reality on the ground."
        Moshe Ya'alon of Blue and White tweeted: "I salute the United States administration's historic stance and acknowledgment regarding the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and their consistency with international law."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Rights in the West Bank under International Law - Amb. Alan Baker
    Israel's rights in the West Bank did not originate with the 1967 Six-Day War. The Balfour Declaration issued by the British government in 1917 acknowledged the indigenous presence and historic aspirations of the Jewish people to reestablish their historic national home in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration received international legal acknowledgment and validity in a series of instruments, commencing with the 1920 San Remo Conference, and was subsequently approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.
        Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel attained control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) from Jordan. However, Jordan was not considered by the international community as having attained legitimate sovereign rights there following its 1950 unrecognized annexation of the areas. From the legal point of view, since there existed no legitimate sovereign power, the classic laws of occupation were not legally applicable.
        The Oslo Accords created a legal regime that overrides any other previously applicable legal framework. The parties agreed that this arrangement would remain valid pending the outcome of negotiations between them. Despite attempts by the international community, through nonbinding political statements and resolutions in the UN, to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations by claiming that the territories are "occupied Palestinian territories," there exists no such legally accepted determination.
        The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. (Tablet)
  • Legal Expert: U.S. Announcement on Israeli Settlements Does Not Close Door on Peace - Jackson Richman
    Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University, said the 1978 State Department legal opinion on Israeli settlements issued during the Carter Administration, known as the Hansell Memorandum, was "legally inaccurate and long-outdated." "The international-law arguments against settlements...do not reflect international law in practice, but rather a desire to put nice words on the argument that Jews should be banned from living in their homeland. Secretary Pompeo has torn the veil off these arguments."
        "The U.S. now correctly takes the position that Israel is not an occupying power in the West Bank, and Jews living in Judea and Samaria is not a war crime. This does not close the door to a two-state solution. It does mean the negotiations about such a solution will no longer begin from the premise that Israel has no claim to this land or stole it from the Palestinians. That false legal theory only served to harden Palestinian positions and make successful negotiations impossible.  (JNS)
  • Does the U.S. Decision on Settlements Doom Peace with the Palestinians? - John Podhoretz
    After the decision by the State Department to declare that Israeli settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank are not inherently illegal or illegitimate, the New York Times declared that this might "doom any peace efforts with Palestinians," as though there are any peace efforts with the Palestinians to doom right now or in the foreseeable future. For the past decade, the Palestinians have withdrawn from any realistic effort to forge a future for themselves in a land they might take as a state, and torpedoed negotiations when and if they ever got anywhere near a resolution. (Commentary)

  • The U.S. has corrected its Middle East policy in an important way. The past legal determination that Israelis deciding to reside in the West Bank are doing so in violation of international law has always been deeply flawed.
  • It failed to recognize that the case of Israeli settlement construction was unique and was not what the drafters of international law had in mind when they first addressed this question. The original basis for judging the question of Israeli settlements was the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Morris Abram, who was the U.S. ambassador to the UN in Geneva, had been one of the drafters of the Fourth Geneva Convention. He wrote that its authors had in mind heinous crimes committed by Nazi Germany that included forcible evictions of Jewish populations for purposes of mass extermination in death camps in places like Poland. This plainly was not the case of Israeli settlements and it is utterly vile to even suggest that Israeli settlements should be thought of in this context.
  • It must be recalled that the last sovereign over the territory of the West Bank was the Ottoman Empire. After the First World War, the League of Nations in 1922 explicitly supported the "close settlement" of Jews in the territory of the British Mandate. Those historical rights of the Jewish people were preserved by Article 80 of the UN Charter.
  • Jordan seized the West Bank in 1949, yet even the Arab states refused to recognize its sovereignty there. In other words, there was no recognized sovereign over the West Bank prior to Israel's entry into the area.
  • Finally, when Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, it acted in the framework of a war of self-defense.

    Ambassador Dore Gold is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.