The FCO is reportedly adding to the ‘travel advice’ section of its website a warning to prospective purchasers of property in the ‘Occupied Territories’ that a future peace deal could have consequences for the property.
1. The UK government has no legal basis for its oft-repeated assertion that the settlements are “illegal under international law”. The Geneva Convention cannot apply to most of the ‘Occupied Territories’ because they have never been recognised as sovereign territory. For example as part of Mandatory Palestine, Judea and Samaria never belonged to any sovereign state but were occupied and administered illegally by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967, after the Arab war of aggression against Israel in 1948. And East Jerusalem was captured by Jordan in the War of 1948.
Further, the Geneva Convention was designed to prohibit the forcible transfer of population into occupied territories, such as was practised by the Nazis and USSR before and during World War Two. But the Israeli settlers in the West Bank went there voluntarily. And as a country that was attacked, Israel is entirely within its legal rights to retain territory that continues to be used as a base for attacks against it.
As the late Eugene Rostow (the former US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs who played a leading role in drafting Resolution 242) repeatedly said, far from being illegally settled in the disputed territories, the Jews have every right to be there under international law.
2. The FCO’s reported new advice is also very surprising after the recent close co-operation with the UK government shown by President Peres (here a few weeks ago) and Prime Minister Olmert (here last week), for example in negotiations about new investment in Judea and Samaria, which also involved Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (also here last week).
3. The ZF is concerned that by raising unrealistic expectations, much of the current rhetoric from the UK government (for example, about “illegality” and the reported warning to prospective purchasers of property) can only encourage terrorism. Indeed in other respects the government’s language is much more careful. For example, it always refers to “withdrawal from settlements” rather than “withdrawal from all settlements” or “withdrawal from the settlements”. This is a correct reflection of the position adopted by most moderate Palestinians who accept that land swaps will be part of any final negotiations.
4. Israel has proved that it wants peace, by negotiating peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. It has proved that it is prepared to give up land, by withdrawing from Gaza. In the middle of the Annapolis peace process, the ZF believes that it is crucial that the UK government supports the voices of moderation - and not those of extremism.
(Vice Chairman ZF)
07947 828 292