The New York Times reports on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statements over the weekend on her visit to Israel with regard to Israel’s continued settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. “Ms. Rice was more explicit than usual in asserting that the construction was reducing confidence in the talks.”
“I do believe,” Rice said, “and the United States believes, that the actions and the announcements that are taking place are indeed having a negative effect on the atmosphere for the negotiation — and that is not what we want.”
Israel agreed in 2003 under the “Road Map” to stop all settlement activity, but has not done so. Still, Israel does not consider continued settlement activity to be a violation of the peace agreement because, as the Washington Post reports, it claims it “has the right to build in areas of the West Bank that will inevitably become part of Israel under a future peace deal.”
Palestinians and, indeed, the international community, as reflected in numerous UN resolutions, consider Israel’s actions to prejudice their rights under any such future agreement for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Times explains that Rice was referring to what “much of the world considers illegal settlements”.
The West Bank was occupied during the 1967 “Six Day War”, which began on June 5 when Israel attacked Egypt early in the morning. Following the cessation of hostilities, the UN Security Council passed resolution 242, which emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and “that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter”, and called for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”.
Article 2 of the UN Charter states that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
The fourth Geneva Convention states that “Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.”
It further states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
The United Nations has repeatedly reiterated, and there is in fact an international consensus on the illegality of the Israeli occupation and settlement activity.
Israel is a party both to the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter.
The US typically vetoes or abstains in UN votes on resolutions critical of Israel and its continued violations of international law.
This, then, is the context when the Times blandly informs its readers that “much of the world” considers the settlements illegal, and the context for Rice’s “more explicit than usual” opposition to the settlements.