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The four levels of reaction by US and EU to Israeli settlements

by Peter A. Belmont / 2011-09-28


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The US and EU have four levels of condemnatory action available to them in regard to Israel’s illegal building of settlements in occupied territories and Israel’s illegal settling of its citizens as settlers in occupied territories (including East Jerusalem).

Settlement-building and settlers residing within occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) are both illegal at international law.

UNSC-465 (1980) demanded that Israel remove all settlers and dismantle all settlements. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) held in its July 9, 2004, advisory opinion that the settlements are illegal.[1]. Read the texts of these documents here.

What might the US and EU do in the face of this Israeli illegality?

First, they can ignore it.

Second, the US and EU can condemn Israel’s announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem. This is what they have done this time. It is little better than the first option, for the ritual tsk-tsk-ing is the equivalent of telling Israel that the settlements are OK (a procedure sometimes called “praising by faint damns”).

Their third option is to recite that the settlement-building and settler-settling is illegal. This sort of recitation seems to be a thing of the past, not much heard since 1980. US presidents call the settlements unhelpful, obstacles to peace, but have not recently called them illegal.

Their fourth option, which they have never chosen, is to act (e.g., through the UNSC) to require Israel to remove all settlers and dismantle all settlements with sufficient serious sanctions in place to compel Israeli compliance.

The real significance of the US and EU’s tsk-tsk-ing is that the US and EU desire that the international law which forbids Israeli construction of settlements in occupied territories be (in effect) a nullity, law that they will not seek to enforce and which, as is well known, the US will use its veto in the UNSC to prevent anyone else from seeking to enforce.

In the real world, they allow Israel to run rough-shod over the Palestinians. The US’s so-far successful attempts to suppress the Goldstone Report regarding war crimes during Israel’s “Cast Lead” operation in Gaza are similar in intention and in effect.

Whether this will lead to the final expulsion of all or most Palestinian Arabs from the occupied territories, or just to an indefinite continuation of Israel’s apartheid-like one-state system of ruling the people living today in the territory of the former Palestine Mandate (ruled by Great Britain 1922-1948), it seems clear that it will not lead to a “just and lasting peace” as envisioned by UNSC-242 (1967).



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[1] The principal holding of the advisory opinion was that Israel’s wall within occupied territories is illegal and must be dismantled.




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