18 August 2013

Settlements not illegal

A letter in Melbourne's Herald Sun by AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein responds to an important inaccuracy regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The letter in the Herald Sun, SAT 17 AUG 2013, by Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director, Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, reads as follows:

The article, "Prisoners walk free" (HS, Aug 15), was mistaken in reporting that US Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel's settlements are "illegal''. The US does not make this claim, and neither did Kerry.

He repeated the Obama administration's standard formula to express disapproval without making a judgment on legality, saying, "As you know... the United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate".

In the context of the conflict, it is a significant difference. The US regards settlements as unhelpful because the territory on which they are situated is disputed land that is claimed by two different parties.

But settlements are not illegal because an independent and sovereign state of Palestine has never existed, so the West Bank is not "Palestinian land". The US knows the solution is to create a two-state resolution that draws final borders and ends the dispute over land.

Three times, Israel has offered such a resolution, in the last proposing to give Palestinians the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza land area. Sadly, the Palestinian leadership has failed to respond positively.