24 Nov ‘US decision isn’t a green-light for annexation’
The Trump administration’s decision to declare that Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria are not illegal under international law will have only a minor impact on other countries’ positions on the issue, Alan Baker, an international law expert and a former Israeli ambassador to Canada, told Arutz Sheva.
Last week, US Secretary of State announced that the US does not view Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria as being illegal under international law, and that it must be left to Israeli courts to determine the legality of individual towns.
“In 1978, the Carter Administration categorically concluded that Israel’s establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. However, in 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that conclusion and stated that he didn’t believe that the settlements were inherently illegal. Subsequent administrations recognized that unrestrained settlement activity could be an obstacle to peace, but they wisely and prudently recognized that dwelling on legal positions didn’t advance peace,” Pompeo explained.
“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan,” Pompeo declared. “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
While the declaration drew applause from Israel, Democratic critics of the Trump administration slammed the move, as did the Palestinian Authority.
Similarly, the European Union reaffirmed its position that Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria is a violation of international law.
Baker, a British-born Israeli jurist who represented Israel in talks with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, as well as in negotiations for the establishment of the International Criminal Court, served as Israel’s ambassador to Canada from 2004 to 2008, warned against reading too deeply into the US State Department’s declaration.
The announcement, Baker said, should not be viewed as a “green light” for Israel’s annexation of large swaths of Judea and Samaria, and that the impact on European government’s positions vis-à-vis Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria would likely be limited.
“It is unclear if the American decision will influence Europe. The European Union, and also foreign ministers for several states, declared that they do not accept [the American] position. As far as the US is concerned, they simply changed their point of view, and that has some effect, including on some other states,” Baker told Arutz Sheva.
“On the other hand, how the Americans perceive the issue of the settlements is very important, though the American Secretary of State himself said that the future of the settlements would be determined by negotiations between the two sides.”
“We always argued that the settlements are legal. This does not constitute a green light for us to immediately annex territories, since we are obliged not to change the status of the territory outside of negotiations. I’m surprised by the regional council chiefs and even senior government ministers who don’t really understand the issue of international law as it relates to annexation.”
Nevertheless, Baker said the move was important in some respects, including by helping strengthen the Israeli position in future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
“This decision helps [Israel], and when we get to negotiations, it will weaken the position of the Palestinians who are always arguing that the settlements are illegal, and who try to push that argument with the Europeans and the BDS movement. This [decision] will seriously weaken them, when a major power like the US thinks this way. But in terms of immediate effects on the ground, it won’t have an impact until we sit down for negotiations.