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"Moral problem of settlements?"

Reader comment on item: Polls, Palestinians and the Path to Peace

Submitted by Dr. Ron Polland (United States), Feb 18, 2003 at 14:21

Daniel and a previous writer alluded to the "problem of Israeli settlements" in the West Bank as a source of anger among the Palestinians. I would like to set the record straight on the legality of these settlements and on the issue of "occupation."

(1) First and foremost, there is no "occupation" nor has there ever been an "occupation" in the West Bank by Israel.

The "territories" in the West Bank and Gaza are not "Palestinian territories" but are "disputed territories" to which both Israel and Palestinians have laid claim. Since the term "occupation" can only refers to a legitimate sovereign who was ousted, and since there has never been recognized borders established with regard to the West Bank and Gaza (and no sovereignty yet established), there cannot be any "occupation." Furthermore, the term "occupation" is never used when other territorial disputes are discussed -- it is only applied to Israel's claim over these disputed territories in the West Bank.

These areas once belonged to Israel before the forced expulsion of the population by the Romans in the First Century, and, therefore, Israel has never surrendered its claim to these areas.

(2) Second, many of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza existed in the same places for thousands of years and were never abandoned by Jews. In other words, despite the years of violence directed against them, there has been a continual Jewish presence in the West Bank and Gaza since the time of the Exodus. The West Bank and Gaza were areas expressly promised to Jews by the Mandate for Palestine in 1922 by the League of Nations. In the 1948 War, Jordan illegally invaded the West Bank and expelled most of the Jews living there. From 1949 until the 1967 War, the Jordanian Government made the sale of land to Jews a capital offense and forbade Jews from visiting their Holy sites in Jerusalem and other cities.

After the 1967 War, Jews voluntarily returned to the settlements from which they were forced to leave in 1948. NO Palestinians were ever forcibly removed from these Jewish settlements. Instead, the land for the settlements was purchased legally. The ONLY reason why Israel would consider abandoning these settlements is in exchange for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

(3) Israel has valid claims to title in this territory based not only on its historic and religious connection to the land, and its recognized security needs, but also on the fact that the territory was not under the sovereignty of any state and came under Israeli control in a war of self-defense imposed upon Israel. At the same time, Israel recognizes that the Palestinians also entertain legitimate claims to the area. Indeed, the fact that Israel is willing to negotiate on the settlements shows that they are ready to accept compromises on this issue.

In stark contrast, Palestinian under the leadership of Arafat refuse to make any compromises and have resorted to armed struggle to get what they want.

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