ISRAELI so-called settlements in West Bank – Judea and Samaria – are a complex issue. As a rule the news and newscasts claim that Israeli construction activities beyond 1967 line will destroy the Two-State idea. During last five decades there has been a continuous flow of statements from sc. international community that West Bank settlements are against sc. International Law.
But besides statements there is actually one trial – which escaped the media’s awareness – and which ruled the opposite: the 3rd Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria.
New level of West Bank construction
World Israel News reports that Israel announced on Tuesday 31st Jan. 2017 the construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria. This announcement, made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, follows last week’s statement regarding the construction of 2,500 housing units in various locations in Judea and Samaria and the municipality of Jerusalem’s approval of the construction of 566 new homes in the city. The back-to-back announcements of a total of 6,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria within a single week is almost unprecedented. The statement comes as 42 Israeli families in the community of Amona in Samaria are being removed from their homes because it was allegedly built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
For example the New York Times was using distorted facts on issue as follows: Israel approved 3,000 more housing units in the occupied West Bank late Tuesday, the largest number in a wave of new construction plans that defy the international community and that open a forceful phase in the country’s expansion into land the Palestinians claim for a future state. However to build housing units both within existing settlements and in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, is not an expansion as the area of land for settlements is not expanding even if the number of houses and Jews living in them is increasing.
On 6th Feb. 2017 the Israeli Knesset passed the controversial Regulation Law by 60 votes to 52. The Regulation Law retroactively gives residents of up to 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements the right to live in their homes which were built – some accidentally – on private Palestinian land, in return providing the landowner with an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s rental value. However the Law might be overturned by the Supreme Court. (Source: BICOM , more in BICOM briefing: Download PDF)
Israel as legal occupant of the West Bank
Israel’s claim in West bank is based e.g. on the following earlier acts of International Law: The Jan Smuts Resolution of January 30, 1919, Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, including the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919, The legal title of the Jewish People to the mandated territory of Palestine in all of its historical parts was first recognized on April 24, 1920 when the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council (Britain, France, Italy and Japan), meeting in San Remo, Italy, converted the 1917 ‘Balfour Declaration’ into a binding legal document. This was confirmed by the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and Lausanne. All these recognized the historical connection of the Jewish People with the Land of Israel.
Sure local Arabs have also historical connections between Mediterranean and Jordan river but they have already received their lands under the Mandate system as (Trans-)Jordania was separated from Palestine during the British Mandate. So Jordan is the Arab Muslim state (kingdom) on 77% of old Palestine made legal 1946-League of Nations. They wanted more and made a war and annexed West bank 1950 which then was reclaimed by Israel 1967. According negotiated Oslo agreements (1995) for administration of West bank there are three areas C=Israel state, B=shared by Israel and Palestinian authority (PA) and A=PLO/PA/Fatah but Jerusalem is not Jordans or anyone elses.
Israel made peace treaty with Jordan – occupant of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 – in 1994 and Jordan does not have any territorial claims in West Bank.
A trial which escaped the media’s awareness
In a historical trial, the 3rd Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria. As this groundbreaking ruling escaped the media’s awareness, a pro Israel activist – Jean-Patrick Grumberg – has worked to bring this “old news” to light. “I decided to put to work my years of Law Studies in France, and I meticulously analyzed the Court ruling,” Jean-Patrick Grumberg wrote and continued
To make sure I did not overestimate my legal abilities and that I wasn’t over optimistic – as usual-, I submitted my analysis and the Court papers to one of the most prominent French lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel, President of Lawyers without borders, to receive his legal opinion. He indeed validated my finding. Then I decided to translate it to English, and it will soon be submitted to Benjamin Netanyahu thru a mutual friend.
The main source of following description is the article in Dreuz.info – Israël est l’occupant légal de la Cisjordanie, dit la Cour d’appel de Versailles , Publié par Jean-Patrick Grumberg le 25 décembre 2016 – with help of the report by United with Israel about the case.
The story goes back to the ’90s, when Israel began work for for the construction of the Jerusalem light rail. The tender was won by French companies Veolia and Alstom. The light rail was completed in 2011, and it crosses Jerusalem all the way through the city. Following this, the PLO/ the Palestinian Authority and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because according to PLO, the construction of the tram was illegal since the United Nations (UN0, the European Union (EU) and other governments consider Israel’s presence there illegal. The Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is unequivocally legal under international law, dismissing a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Jerusalem’s light rail built by French companies Alstom and Veolia. To rule on the suit, the Court of Appeals had to determine the legal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the region. Their conclusion was that the Palestinians have no right – in the international legal sense – to the region, unlike Israel, who is legitimately entitled to all land beyond the 67 line.
It is said that the court decision is only marginally significant for a debate about the legality of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as it’s only talking about transport infrastructure, not e.g. about settlements. However in trial the PLO, explaining that the occupation is illegal, claimed that Israel is violating: Articles 49-6 and 53 of the Geneva Convention, Articles 23, 27 and 46 of the Regulations annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, Article 4 of the Hague Convention of 14 May 1954. Article 27 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, Article 5 of the Convention IX of the 1907 Hague. and Article 53 of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.
So in order to rule whether the light rail’s construction was legal or not, the court had to review the texts of international law and examine international treaties in order to establish the respective legal rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis.
The Versailles Court of Appeal rejected all the Palestinian arguments. Referring to the texts on which the PLO claim is based, the Court of Appeal considers that Israel is entitled to ensure order and public life in the region, and therefore Israel has the right to build a light rail, infrastructure and dwellings. All the international instruments put forward by the PLO were acts signed between states, and the obligations or prohibitions contained therein are relevant to states. Neither the PA nor the PLO are states, and therefore, none of these legal documents apply to them.
The Court of Appeal therefore sentenced the PLO and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), who was co-appellant, to pay 30,000 euros ($32,000) to Alstom, 30,000 euros to Alstom Transport and 30,000 euros to Veolia Transport. Neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority nor the AFPS appealed to the Supreme Court, and therefore the judgment became final. This is the first time that a Court has legally destroyed all Palestinian legal claim that Israel’s occupation is illegal.
Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila – siteAri Rusila