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November 28, 2013 5:00 pm

Poll: Majority of Israelis Believe Settlements to be Legal

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In center is retired Israeli Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy, who is now in the news for heading the Commission to Examine the Status of Building in Judea and Samaria. Photo: Kobi Gideon/Flash90.

A strong majority of Israelis believe Jewish settlement in the West Bank to be legal under Israeli law, a new poll shows.

The survey, conducted by New Wave Research on behalf of Regavim, found that 60 percent of Israelis view the settlements to be legal, while only 16 percent consider them to be illegal. 24% were unsure.

When respondents were asked about the legality of settlements under international law, the results differed substantially. A slight majority of 36% said they were legal and 35% said they believed them to be illegal. 29% said they didn’t know.

The poll also measured how the public’s attitude towards settlements and settlers would be impacted if views regarding the legality of settlement activity were to change.

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If convinced of the legality of the settlements under international law, 34% of respondents said that their view towards the settlers would improve. 31% said that their opinion regarding building in the settlements would be more positive, and 31% said that it would cause them to reconsider whether Israel should dismantle most of the settlements as part of a final status agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

The poll was conducted with a sampling of 508 Hebrew speaking, Israeli Jews over 18 years of age, and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Various Israeli activists told The Algemeiner that they see  the results as relevant to the Israeli government’s decisions relating to the controversial  Levy Report on the settlements, published in July 2012.

The Report was compiled by a three member committee headed by retired Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy, who was appointed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to investigate the legal status of West Bank Jewish settlements.

Levy concluded that settlements are legal under international law, however, as of yet, the Report has not been brought before any parliamentary or governmental body which would have the power to approve it.

“When we understand the full implications of this poll, we recognize how important it is to educate the public here in Israel about the Levy Report,” Arlene Kushner, an activist who has coalesced an alliance of individuals and groups to promote the Levy Report, said. “Israelis have heard the international community declare the settlements to be part of an ‘illegal occupation’ or ‘illegitimate’ for so long that some have started believing it themselves. In fact, the negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs ignore Israel’s legal rights in Judea and Samaria.”

“The Levy Report, issued by a committee headed by a former High Court judge, concluded that under international law there is no Israeli occupation in Judea and Samaria. This poll shows that if Israelis are aware of these findings, a significant percentage of those who currently oppose the settlements would reconsider their attitude and would no longer support uprooting them,” Kushner said.

Jeff Daube, the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Israel Director, and a c0-chair of the alliance, told The Algemeiner that “The Report must be brought back onto the agenda so that its conclusions and recommendations can be discussed and implemented.”

“Acknowledging Israel’s legal claim to Judea and Samaria can only strengthen its position both domestically and in the international community,” he said.

Others that have joined the alliance include, Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, National Council of Young Israel , the ZOA, Dr. Jacques Gauthier, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Ambassador Zvi Mazel and Dr. Abraham Sion.

On Tuesday, Knesset Member David Rotem, announced that the Report will be debated by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee next week, The Jerusalem Post reported.

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  • Davidka

    I agree with the other, erudite letter writers. Judea and Samaria are part of Israel under international law. There is a connection of thousands of years. In modern times the rights stem from the San Remo Conference and the Palestine Mandate. Nothing since has changed those rights, certainly not the UN partition resolution, which was advisory only and in any case rejected by the Arabs.

    Israel must stand up and point out these arguments. The Big Lie about “illegal occupation” has been repeated so many times, with no response from Israel, that it has come to be accepted. As an example of Israel standing up, the next time Bibi addresses Congress, he should have copies of the San Remo Declaration and the U.S. Congress’s unanimous endorsement of it, physically in hand. The same should be done every time anyone, including Kerry and Clinton, repeats the big lie about “illegal settlements.” Israel is only demanding, as it has a right to, that the U.S. honor its longstanding treaty obligations!

    For Israel to rely on San Remo and the Mandate, has other implications. It is not only illegal under international law for Israel to give away chunks of itself, but it is treason under Israeli law for Israel to give away any part of Eretz Israel. That fact is studiously ignored by the Israeli courts and politicians.

    At any rate, wholeheartedly adopting the Levy Report is one necessary and urgent first step toward Israel vindicating its rights.

  • Wallace Edward Brand

    Wettlement is lawful under Internaitonal Law. See: Brand, Roots of Israel’s Sovereignty and Boundaries in International Law, In Defense of the Levy Report http://www.think-israel.org/brand.allegedoccupation.html
    In November, 1993 just after OSLO was signed, Eugene Rostow, an acclaimed International Lawyer and Dean of the Yale Law School wrote:

    “The 1920 mandate [for Palestine] implicitly denies Arab claims to national political rights in the area in favour of the Jews; the mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development, in acknowledgment of the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land. There remains simply the theory that the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have an inherent “natural law” claim to the area. Neither customary international law nor the United Nations Charter acknowledges that every group of people claiming to be a nation has the right to a state of its own.” Eugene Rostow, The Future of Palestine, Institute for Strategic Studies, November, 1993

    Now that 20 years have gone by and the “peace talks” and renunciation of violence have been proven to be a charade, it is time to contemplate what will come next. One alternative that hasn’t been given a forum is a one lawful Jewish majority state from the River to the Sea. But two myths need correcting and a chimera must be dispelled. One myth is that Jewish sovereignty had its roots in the 1947 UNGA Partition Resolution 181 and success in battle in 1948, but does not include Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem that were liberated in 1967. A history lost in the sands of time shows the roots of the Jewish People’s sovereignty in 1920, recognized by 53 states in 1922.

    The second myth is that the “Palestinian People” is a real rather than an invented “people” and has a right to self-determination under International Law. Neither is correct.

    The chimera that it would involve giving up on a majority of Jewish citizenry in Israel is also not correct. Annexation of Judea and Samaria would lower the existing Jewish population majority from 80% to about 66% but only if every Arab in those territories swore fealty to the Jewish State to obtain citizenship. And the Jewish birthrate is significantly greater than the Arab birthrate and is supplemented by significant Jewish immigration from the diaspora.

    Palestinian Self-Determination under natural law and International Law

    In President Obama’s recent trip to Israel, he told the students there [having excluded students from outside the Green Line] that the Palestinian People had an inalienable right to self-determination. But he also recently told Americans that if they liked their health care policies, under ObamaCare they could keep them. The UN General Assembly made the same error on Palestinian self-determination in its Resolution 3236. This might be true under natural law, but it is not the rule under International Law? Does every “people” have a unilateral right to self-determination under International Law? Not the Kurds, nor the Basques. Why the Arab people living in Palestine?

    Many believe that Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech in 1918 was the first mention of a right of self-determination of a people since the time of John Locke. But Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech focused on three colonies of Turkey, namely Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine. It was aimed at their decolonization. It was not meant to deal with open ended secession. Only 53 years before, the United States had suffered combat casualties of 215,000 and total casualties of 625,000 in the American Civil War in denying to the Southern Confederacy the right of secession. The American Revolutionary War, on the other hand, was a war to obtain American self-determination by decolonization. So American history itself supports self-determination obtained by decolonization but not when sought by secession where the territorial integrity of a sovereign state is at issue.

    Territorial integrity of the sovereign state had been the mainstay of world order since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. It is considered inviolable. “Without the consent of the existing state, the international community will not recognize secessionist territories as sovereign and independent States. * * * There is no general right of secession in international law. The principle of sovereign equality of States includes the recognition that the territorial integrity of the State is ‘inviolable’.” Wheatley, Democracy, Minorities and International Law. [emphasis added]

    Franklin Roosevelt’s and Winston Churchill’s wartime discussion of the subject of political self-determination, framed on a battleship in the Atlantic Ocean appeared to be open ended. It was stated as natural law in the 1941 “Atlantic Charter.” But when the right of self-determination is open ended, there will be a tension between that right of “peoples” with the right of territorial integrity of sovereign states except when the right of self-determination can be met by a decolonization. A decolonization can be carried out without affecting the boundaries of a state.

    The first evolution of this natural law on the “god given” inalienable right of self determination into International Law was its mention in the UN Charter adopted in June, 1945 in Article 1 Section 2 provides as one purpose: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples…” But Article 2 (1) preserved the territorial integrity of the sovereign state: “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”

    The next mention of the right of self determination clearly focussed on decolonization. Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples Adopted by General Assembly resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960 provided “2. All peoples have the right to self-determination. . . .”

    The next two International Conventions were not focussed clearly on decolonization but did certainly retain the rights of territorial integrity of the sovereign state. These were enacted in 1966 to become effective in 1976. They were The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Article 1.1. in each, provides: “All peoples have the right of self-determination.” But each also reserves the territorial integrity of the sovereign state> Article 1.3. provides: “The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. [emphasis added] The Charter requires sovereign equality and hence the inviolability of territorial integrity.

    In 1970, the UN General Assembly spoke again on self-determination in the Declaration On Principles Of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations And Co-Operation Among States In Accordance With The Charter Of The United Nations. This provided: “By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right freely to determine, without external interference, their political status . . .” But it also said: ” Every State shall refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of any other State or country.” [emphasis added]

    Under International Law, the clear rule is that International Law supports the self-determination of a “people” when it can be attained without affecting the boundary of a sovereign state as is the case in a decolonization. Political scientists, philosophers and those in the discipline of public administration have been suggesting that the right of self-determination should be available unilaterally even under secession. The theory attracting the most followers appears to be that of Allen Buchanan a philosopher at the University of Wisconsin. He would preserve the strong priority of territorial integrity of sovereign states over self-determination but permit secession only as a remedy of last resort for a “people” when a majority in a state is badly oppressing a minority with the threat of genocide or cultural extinction. See: Buchanan, The International Institutional Dimension of Secession in Lehning, Theories of Secession at pp. 241-247, justifying the need for a priority for territorial integrity. Other non-lawyers would not even require that an entire “people” want to secede but would permit it for any cohesive group nor would they require it to be a last resort. They do require that it be fair to the minority in the territory removed as well as not removing anything vital to the continued existence of those in the remaining territory.
    How do these principles fit in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    First, the conflict was res judicata under International Law since 1920. In 1919 the Arab and Jewish People brought to the Paris Peace Talks their competing claims for Palestine. King Hussein, the initial representative of the Arab People, also claimed Syria (now Syria and Lebanon) and Mesopotamia (now called Iraq). The World Zionist Organization sought only Palestine, asking only in effect for what the British Balfour policy had promised them. That was recognition initially of an equitable interest in the political rights to Palestine but when the Jews attained a population majority in the area to be governed and the capability of exercising sovereignty, it was the intention to have the rights vest so they could reconstitute a Jewish Commonwealth. Until that time the British as trustees or mandatory, were to have legal dominion over these rights with the authority in the mandate or trust agreement of legislation, administration and adjudication. That was a precaution taken avoid an antidemocratic government according to a memo of the British Foreign Office. The same intention was noted in the briefing documents the American diplomats carried with them to the Paris Peace Talks. That the mandate was simply a trust agreement was early recognized by a British barrister in 1921, and the International Court of Justice later followed the same view in its decision on Namibia LEGAL CONSEQUENCES FOR STATES OF THE CONTINUED PRESENCE OF SOUTH AFRICA IN NAMIBIA (SOUTH-WEST AFRICA) NOTWITHSTANDING SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 276 (1970) Advisory Opinion of 21 June 1971 some 50 years later.
    The mandatory or trustee was to facilitate Jewish immigration. It was expected that Jewish immigration from the diaspora would take a long time to effect a majority population, therefore the mandatory power was prohibited from ceding any of the land to any foreign party in the interim. The mandatory or trustee was to facilitate Jewish immigration. It was expected that Jewish immigration from the diaspora would take a long time to effect a majority population, therefore the mandatory power was prohibited from ceding any of the land to any foreign party in the interim.
    At the Paris Peace Talks the focus was on the European claimants of territories in Europe but when the Allies reconvened in San Remo in April, 1920, they recognized the Jewish People as the owners of the political rights to Palestine due to its long history of association with that area. On April 25th they adopted the Balfour Declaration word for word as their decision on the competing claims of the Jewish People and Arab people. The Arab then current majority inhabitants of Syria and Mesopotamia were awarded a beneficial interest in the political rights to those territories. The Ottomans (Turkey) ceded their sovereign rights to Palestine in the Treaty of Sevres to the Mandatory Power. That treaty was never ratified but in the later Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey released any claim to these territories, the disposition of which by that time was a fait accompli. In 1922 the 51 members of the League of Nations and the US had approved the terms of the Palestine Mandate except for truncating the territory to Palestine west of the Jordan River.
    By 1950 the Jews had unified control and a population majority of the area they governed within the Armistice Boundary (The Green Line) and Britain had abdicated its responsibilities as trustee. In 1967 the Jews drove out Jordan and Egypt from the areas they were illegally occupying based on their aggressive war in 1948.
    So– do the “Palestinian People” have the unilateral right , to secede from the Jewish People’s State? The Government of Israel, the agent of the Jewish People has so far not asserted sovereignty over the territories of Judea and Samaria. This was likely because the lawyers under the former labor government had held the Jews held the land liberated in 1967 in “belligerent occupation”. But they were mistaken. That is because a belligerent occupier is one who has captured the land from a legitimate sovereign. Jordan never gained sovereignty over any land west of the Jordan River because it had captured it in an aggressive war. No Arab state recognized Jordan as the sovereign of this territory. In the whole world,, only two states recognized Jordan as sovereign over territory in the West Bank because to do so would violate International Law of long standing custom as well as the UN Charter.

    Russia’s Role

    Since 1950 the Soviet Union has sought domination of the Middle East as a stepping stone to hegemony over Western Europe according to the late Eugene Rostow, Dean of the Yale Law School and Professor of International Law. PALESTINIAN SELF-DETERMINATION: POSSIBLE FUTURES FOR THE UNALLOCATED TERRITORIESOF THE PALESTINE MANDATE (1980) “For nearly thirty turbulent years, the Soviet Union has sought control of this geo-political nerve center in order to bring Western Europe into its sphere. Even if Soviet ambitions were confined to Europe, Soviet hegemony in the Middle East would profoundly change the world balance of power. But Soviet control of the MiddleEast would lead inevitably to further accretions of Soviet power if China, Japan, and many smaller and more vulnerable countries should conclude that the United States had lost the will or the capacity to defend its vital interests, . . .” * * *
    “The exploitation of Arab hostility to the Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate, and the existence of Israel has been a major weapon in the Soviet campaign to dominate the Middle East.” * * “. . .the Soviet Union invited Arafat to Moscow, supported his appearance before the United Nations in November, 1974, and increased its pressure for General Assembly resolutions supporting claims of self-determination for the Palestinian Arabs and denouncing Zionism as “racism'”

    Even if Allen Buchanan’s last resort theory instead of International Law were to be applied, the only evidence of the peoplehood of the so called Palestinian People and their claim to a desire for self-determination can be found in the preamble of the 1964 Charter of the PLO drafted in Moscow and corroborated only by the first 422 members of the Palestinian National Council, each hand-picked by the KGB. In WWI the Palestininan Arabs were offered self-government if they fought on the side of the Allies – they didn’t; some fought for the Ottomans; in 1947 Count Folke Bernadotte found the Palestinian Arabs were not interested in nationalism and never had been, and in 1973 Zahir Muhsein, a member of the Executive Board of the PLO admitted to a Dutch newspaper that there was no Palestinian “People” — it was only a political ploy and that once the Jews were annihilated, the PLO would merge with Jordan. The circumstances surrounding the drafting of the 1964 PLO Charter and its corroboration we have from the personal knowledge of Major-General Ion Pacepa, the highest ranking defector from the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. Even if they were a real People, The Palestinians in the Jewish People’s State are not threatened with genocide nor cultural extinction. Each year the Palestinian population grows larger. Arabic is a second official language of Israel.

    If the no-priority-for-territorial-integrity theory were to be applied, what of the plight of the minority in the territory to be removed, and the plight of the majority of those remaining which those theorists say must be fair? The loss of the Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem would mean the loss to the Jewish People 1. of defensible borders, 2, their cultural heritage including the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, and 3. the civil rights of those in the territory removed as the Arabs are clear that all Jews would be expelled from the territory removed from the Jewish People’s state.
    Further facts and law on the above are available in Benzimra, The Jewish People’s Rights to Israel under International Law, published by Amazon on Kindle in 2011 and Brand, Roots of Israel’s Sovereignty and Boundaries in International Law: In Defense of the Levy Report published online at http://www.think-israel.org/brand.allegedoccupation.html

    When Netanyahu asserts Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, the question of statehood for the so called Palestinian People becomes an internal matter and the UN requires that other states stay out of it. ” Every State shall refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of any other State or country.” Declaration On Principles Of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations And Co-Operation Among States In Accordance With The Charter Of The United Nations. (1970) I doubt, however, that the Russian dezinformatsiya will change its ways.

    • Wallace Edward Brand

      Update. SSRN.com/abstract=2385304 See also SSRN.com/abstract=2404738

  • Barry

    Howard Grief and Jacques Gauthier, PhDs, have made brilliant and unimpeachable arguments that due to the San Remo Resolutions (1920), Israel has sovereignty over all of Jerusalem as well as J & S.

    Successive Israeli governments have underperformed in not taking up these findings and arguing them internationally.

    It’s high time Israel brought this arrow out of the quiver and used it. Though many say the problem is now political and not legal, don’t believe it. The truth contained in the legality of Israel’s true status will go a long way in shutting down the lies about occupation. Please Mr. Netanyahu, take this matter to heart and get it going.

  • Emmett

    The Land is called Yehuda & Shomron, not “West Bank”, the term Arabs & leftists use. It was called “West Bank” by Jordan when they illegally occupied the land(according to international law) prior to the war in 1967, because… it was on their West bank.

  • rachel

    We need to educate Jews and the international community concerning Jewish rights and Sovereignty over the land of Israel.”The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law” by Howard Grief is a comprehensive legal explanation of Jewish national and political rights to all of the land of Israel.
    Netanyahu and Livni should take some time to read this book before bartering Israel’s heritage with terrorists.

    • judith nusbaum

      Rachel, I’m in total agreement with you. Judea and Samaria legally belong to the Jewish people. So much education is required to teach the facts not only to our people, but also to the world. Judith

    • Never would have thunk I would find this so ineanpdssible.

  • Doris Epstein

    Any attempt to give away any land in Judea and Samaria

    is illegal under international law.

    It’s about time we announced that from the rooftops.

  • Steve Klein

    Settlements (communities) in the “West Bank” are legal according to international law.

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