If you need proof of just how friendless Israel’s hard-Right government has become, consider the statements last night from MPs who would normally count themselves the country’s natural allies. Arch-Tories such as Nicholas Soames (whose grandfather Winston Churchill is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political hero) spoke eloquently in favour of Palestinian statehood. And Richard Ottoway, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said that despite having been “a friend of Israel long before I became a Tory”, its recent policies had “outraged me more than anything else in my political life”, concluding: “If Israel is losing the support of people like me, it is losing a lot of people.”
It has been the position of every British government since 1967 that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have not been lawfully part of the State of Israel, whether at its creation or at any point thereafter. Indeed, that is the view of every foreign government, including the United States.I do not expect the same degree of realism to come out of Washington.
And since 1967, a clear line has been drawn in international law which defines which territory is occupied and which is not. Yet relentlessly, every week, every month, and every year for decades, Israelis have built illegal constructions on Palestinian land.
The construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is contrary to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the occupying power from transferring parts of its own population into the territories it occupies. This is a position held by the international community and confirmed by the International Court of Justice. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Israel itself has repeatedly found that the West Bank is held in belligerent occupation.
But since 1967 Israel has continuously and systematically built outside its legitimate borders and has claimed its neighbours’ land as its own. Israeli settlements are the worst, most destructive, aspect of the military occupation, an occupation which has become the longest in modern international relations.
The continued expansion of settlements demonstrates that the occupier has little or no intention of ending that occupation or of permitting a viable Palestinian state to come into existence.