The following column by former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker highlights basic facts regarding the ongoing peace negotiations that, although critical, are not widely known. It was originally published this week on the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website.
1. There is no such thing as the “Palestinian territories.” Such an entity has never been determined as such in any binding international document, agreement, or resolution. The final status of the West Bank is still an agreed-upon negotiating issue and should not be prejudged by any political declaration or statement.
2. The territories are “disputed,” not “occupied.” International law relates to occupation of foreign territory from a prior legitimate sovereign. The area of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is not foreign, and has, from time immemorial, since at least 1500 BCE, been part of the indigenous Jewish presence in the area, which has been internationally acknowledged historically and recognized in international documents.
3. Any Christian believer cannot deny the fact that Jesus was a Jew who lived as part of the historic Jewish existence in the area, a presence which is borne out by historic and archaeological evidence.
4. Israel and the Jewish People have very well-based and long-standing inalienable, indigenous, historic, legal, and international rights in the area including in the West Bank. These rights are being denied and overlooked by the international community. Israel has agreed to negotiate the final status of this area. The outcome of these negotiations should not be prejudged.
5. Claims by Palestinian spokesmen to indigenous or historic status or presence are patently false and misleading. The Arab presence in geographic Palestine commenced in 630 CE and comprises Bedouin tribes and families that generated from the Arabian Peninsula to the area of geographic Palestine in search of employment and economic benefit.
6. The allegation that Israel’s settlements are “illegitimate” is a misreading of international law and in itself prejudges an agreed-upon negotiating issue. The prohibition of forced transfer of population into “occupied territory” was drafted into the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to prevent a repeat of the mass, forced population transfers carried out by the Nazis. It was not intended, and cannot be interpreted, to apply to Israel’s communities in the West Bank.
7. In accordance with international norms regarding administration of territory, construction of and within these Israeli communities is strictly on land that is not privately owned, and is under the legal supervision of Israel’s Supreme Court.
8. Reliance on the term “1967 borders” or “lines” has no basis in law or fact and cannot and should not constitute any point of reference in the negotiations. The 1949 Armistice Demarcation Line was distinctly determined not to constitute a border. The term “1967 borders” or “lines” was not referred to in the Oslo Accords. All parties have accepted the call by the UN Security Council in Resolution 242 (1967) for “secure and recognized boundaries.” This resolution makes no reference to “1967 lines.”
9. The ongoing Palestinian incitement against Israel, sponsorship and support of the campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, threats to prosecute Israeli leaders in international tribunals, and threats to appeal to UN and international bodies are all totally incompatible with any bona fide negotiation for peace in the area. These phenomena violate Palestinian commitments. Clear and definitive action must be taken by the Palestinian leadership to bring these phenomena to an immediate end.
10. Any attempt to prohibit or deny the presence of Jews in any area is anathema to all accepted civilized and humanitarian norms and should be totally and utterly rejected.
Date: Mar. 5, 2014
Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public 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. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.