Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Israeli Settlement and the Geneva Convention

Eugene Rostow 's letter to NYT in April '92

Israeli Settlement and the Geneva Convention

To the Editor:

I apologize for an error in "Agreements Don't Bar West Bank
Settlements" (letter, March 18), on the legality of Israeli settlements
in the West Bank, which states that "international lawyers differ on
whether the 1949 Geneva Convention applies to the Israeli occupation of
the West Bank, because Israel is not a signatory." Both Israel and
Jordan did sign and ratify the convention, Israel with a reservation.

The error does not affect my argument, however. Article 2 of the
convention provides that the agreement applies "to all cases of partial
or total occupation of the territory of a high contracting party." Thus
the convention cannot apply because the West Bank, East Jerusalem and
the Gaza Strip have never been generally recognized as territories of
Jordan. Jordan administered them as a belligerent occupant between 1948
and 1967 after a war of aggression against Israel in 1948. Jordan's
attempt to annex these areas in 1950 was recognized only by Britain
(except for Jerusalem) and perhaps by Pakistan.

In any event, Jordan has formally renounced whatever claims it may
have had to the territory, which is a residual part of the Palestine
Mandate and therefore subject to the rights of "the Jewish people" to
make "close settlement" on the land. I regard this aspect of the
controversy as legally more important than arguments based on the
Geneva Convention.

EUGENE V. ROSTOW, Distinguished Fellow, United States Institute of Peace

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