On Thursday EU high commissioner Catherine Ashton issued a statement in which she condemned the issuing of tenders for some 1200 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisqat Ze’ev and Ramot.
Ashton labeled these neighborhoods ‘settlements’ and called them ‘illegal under international law’. She furthermore claimed that the building in Ramot and Pisqat Ze’ev was threatening to make the two state solution impossible.
Ashton’s condemnation of the new building in Jerusalem is once again based on gross distortion of the facts. This happened earlier when she condemned a housing plan for the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem.
Pisqat Ze’ev: illegal settlement?
Pisqat Ze’ev, for example was mainly built on land that was legally bought by Jews during the British Mandate - before the establishment of the state of Israel.
The Jews who bought the land almost a century ago planned to build a new settlement by the name of Chawtselet Benjamin. The Holocaust foiled the plan since most of the Jewish landowners perished in Hitler’s death camps. This was reported by the Israeli paper Ha’aretz earlier this year. Ha’aretz based its story on original documents in the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem
Settlements illegal under international law?
The EU consistently labels Jewish settlement in the West Bank ‘illegal under international law’.
Many experts on international law disagree with this EU position. Among them are Professor David Phillips, Professor Eugene Kontorovich , Professor Julius Stone, who wrote a book on the subject titled “Assault on the law of nations”, and Eugene Rostow the former dean of Yale Law School..
Here’s what Rostow wrote at the time about Jewish settlement in what is now termed the West Bank:
“The heated question of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank during the occupation period should be viewed in this perspective. The British Mandate recognized the right of the Jewish people to “close settlement” in the whole of the Mandated territory. It was provided that local conditions might require Great Britain to “postpone” or “withhold” Jewish settlement in what is now Jordan. This was done in 1922. But the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan river, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors. And perhaps not even then, in view of Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, “the Palestine article,” which provides that “nothing in the Charter shall be construed … to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments….”
Threat to two state solution?
Ashton writes that the new housing projects in Ramot and Pisqat Ze’ev threaten the two state solution.
However the so called ‘Palestine Papers’ which give a detailed description of the peace talks between the Olmert government and the Palestinian Authority tell a different story.
In fact the Palestinians proposed during these negotiations that Israel annex these neighborhoods.
Here’s what the Palestinian negotiator Abu Allah said to former US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice during the talks:
- We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa).This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.
- We cannot accept the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev, Ephrat and Har Homa settlements
So the only Israeli settlements that were unacceptable to the Palestinians and could have threaten the two state solution were Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev,Ariel, Efrat and Har Homa.
Har Homa is in that list the sole Jerusalem neighborhood: the rest are towns outside Jerusalem.
So how can building in neighborhoods that the Palestinians themselves proposed for annexation by Israel threaten the two state solution?