Wednesday, December 12, 2012

West Bank chronology

In response to the EU Foreign Minister's meeting, that is laying the foundation for separating Israel from the pre-1967 territories in order to unilaterally recognize Palestinian sovereignty, I am providing a chronology of the status of the so-called West Bank.  The name derives from its being the west bank of the River Jordan, although the correct geographical names for the area are Judea in the south and Samaria in the north.  This area has become a bone of contention between Israel and the Palestinians, with the Europeans and Americans generally taking a pro-Palestinian position largely for political reasons.
  1. In 1917 during WWI the British, who were fighting the Germans and the Turks, issued the Balfour Declaration, that they would establish a "homeland" for the Jews in "Palestine" (as the British called the area, referring back to the extinct Philistines who were not Arabs).
  2. Under the terms of the San Remo peace treaty of 1920 in which the fate of former Turkish colonies were decided, the Balfour Declaration was adopted as the legal basis for the future of Palestine.  There was no provision for an Arab State in Palestine.
  3. This Treaty granted Britain a Mandate by the League of Nations to control Palestine, until it could be transferred to Jewish ownership.  However, they had no real intention of doing this, according to the secret protocol of the British-French agreement, the Sykes-Picot Treaty, promulgated during the War.
  4. In 1922, Britain under Winston Churchill unilaterally and illegally divided the Mandate and gave the eastern half of Mandatory Palestine to Abdullah, one of the sons of Emir Hussein of Mecca, to form the Arab Kingdom of Transjordan.
  5. In 1947, the UN passed the Partition Plan that divided West Palestine into two putative states one Jewish and the other Arab, and the area representing the West Bank was included in the Arab State.
  6. Israel accepted the UN Partition Plan, but the Arabs rejected it, and so it became void and was never implemented
  7. In 1948 after Britain withdrew its forces Israel declared its independence and fought a war against the invading armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
  8. Israel won its independence and was recognized by most countries in the world, including the USA, USSR and then the UN.
  9. During the war Transjordan captured the area called the West Bank and illegally annexed it, and renamed itself Jordan.
  10. The sovereignty of Jordan over the West Bank was not recognised under international law except by Pakistan and Britain.
  11. Israel recaptured the WB during the 1967 Six-Day War and expelled the Jordanians.
  12. However, Israel did not annex the WB (like it did E. Jerusalem and the Golan Heights) pending a negotiated settlement with the Arabs.
  13. It should be noted that some of the settlements on the WB, such as the three in the Etzion bloc,  were Jewish owned long before the War of Independence and the children of the original settlers returned to live there.  Also, the Jewish presence in Hebron that ended with the 1929 massacre was reestablished in 1968
  14. The Oslo Accords of 1999 divided the WB into three sections, A, Arab-Palestinian control, B, joint control and C, Israeli control.  However, the Oslo Accords became moot when Arafat unleashed the terrorism of the second intifada on Israel in 2000
  15. Israel maintains that the building of settlements on the WB is legal since its legal status was never altered from the time of the San Remo Treaty and there was never Palestinian sovereignty over the area.  
  16. But, the international community supports the Palestinian position and considers the settlements as illegal under a Geneva Convention that precludes a victor from settling its citizens on occupied land.
  17. Most Israeli Governments accepted the legality of building settlements on the WB, but since 1999 Israel adopted a policy of not building new settlements but only expanding existing settlements. 
  18. Even this policy was disapproved by Pres. Obama, who forced PM Netanyahu to institute a moratorium on all Israeli construction in the WB.  This lasted for 10 months from 2009-10, but the Palestinians failed to reenter negotiations during this period and after it expired Pres. Abbas of the PA has since insisted on a cessation of all construction in the WB as a precondition to any negotiations.  He also insists that Israel accept the pre-1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian State before negotiations can begin. 
  19. Since the unilateral application to the UN for non-member state recognition by Pres. Abbas in 2012 is contrary to all previous UN resolutions and the Olso Accords that bilaterlly divided the WB (see 12 above), Israel has now unilaterally decided to expand existing settlements and to plan to build in new areas such as E1 between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.  Why should Israel not be contiguous there? 
  20. Israel would like to have an international court judge the legality of its claim to the WB, but fears a biased outcome such as the infamous Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009, that even Justice Goldstone subsequently retracted.
There are moves at the UN and EU to grant sovereignty for the Palestinians over the West Bank without any reference to Israel.  Such moves cannot lead to peace and can only exacerbate the situation. They derive from the mistaken view that only the Palestinians have a legitimate claim to those areas.


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