The Role of International Law and the US Administration as The Obstacle to Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Issue


(1) Abstract

This study attempts to observe the role of international law and the US administration as the obstacle to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is, indeed, warranted to observe such a topic due to the unending unrest in the Palestinian society whose stability is dependent on an apartheid system; further hypothesizing the benefits of understanding the history and issue of the conflict between internal and external players as both obstacles and peace factors for the future of the Middle East.

This study presents a methodology of secondary sources derived from previous research, to properly assess the response to the Israeli settlements, the geopolitical shifts in the Middle East, and the US policy in the region. The results will reinforce the correlation between the US-Israeli relationship on securing Palestinian statehood, and the role of the international justice system in establishing the future for peace.

(2) Introduction

Palestine’s fifty-two years of military occupation, land theft, and settler colonialism marks the longest occupation in modern history. It has left a large majority of the Palestinian people torn and unhopeful in their fight for an independent state.

3.1 Historic Profile: Israel & Palestine

After World War I, Palestine was administered by the United Kingdom under a Mandate received in 1922 from the League of Nations. The modern history of Palestine begins with the termination of the British Mandate, the Partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel, and the ensuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 1947, the United Nations (U.N.) proposed a Partition Plan for Palestine titled “United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine.” The resolution noted Britain’s planned termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and recommended the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area protected and administered by the United Nations.

The Arab League had threatened to take military measures to prevent the partition of Palestine and to ensure the national rights of the Palestinian Arab population. One day before the British Mandate expired, Israel declared its independence within the borders of the Jewish State set out in the Partition Plan.

(3) Objective

The instruction to study the role of international law and the US administration as the obstacle to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian issue permits an analysis to understand the historic outline of the two States and the external players key in shaping the geographic shift of the region; as well as the approach of the international community onto the early and current occupations of Palestine.

  • To Validate the Expansion of Israeli Settlements As a Significant Factor to Achieving Peace in The Region

The Israeli settlements had started construction since 1967, and was carried out without official authorisation from the relevant parties. It has proven to be one of the most intractable issues between Israel-Palestine regarding the efforts to achieve peace in the region. These settlements directly contribute to confiscation of the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

  • To Strengthen the Position of the Israeli Settlements as Illegal and a Breach of International Law

The European Law reaffirmed their position as illegal in Israel’s settlements, effectively contradicting against law. Additionally, the United Nations Security Council resolutions has similarly considered illegal under international law — violating the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of population to an occupied area by an occupying power.

  • To Acknowledge the United States as the Primary Obstacle to Securing Palestinian Statehood

Since the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump administration’s continued efforts in legitimising Israel by its new decision on the settlements stands in contradiction to the international consensus.

(4) Scope: Focus/Limitation

As this paper seeks to understand the role of international law and the US administration as key players in obstructing peace in the Israel-Palestine region; it is necessary for us to focus on these factors and its effects on the geopolitics of the Middle East.

However, as all research, we have had several limitations to obtaining the data that we need. Since our methodology relies on a pre-existing data, it has provided us with overlapping perspectives that are often biased and subjective to the author’s personal aspirations in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The acknowledgement of this limitation hugely impacts our overall research study, plaguing it with falseness and unsurety. Hence, various methodologies such as natural observations, personal opinions on our shared discussions and an exploration of the opposing arguments were taken into consideration to ensure the reliability of the source.

4**.1 Israeli Settlements**

The United Nations Security Council, in regards to the Israeli Settlement, had passed Resolution 242 as a framework to implement the two-State solution into the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Since its adoption in 1967, Israel had violated Resolution 242 by entrenching its occupation of Palestine through illegal settlements. The Zionist paramilitary groups had launched a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing in the form of large-scale attacks, massacres, destruction of entire villages — all with the aim to massively expel the Palestinian people.

By the end of 1949, the newly-formed Jewish state had taken up some 78% of historical Palestine, with the remaining Palestinian territories, the West Bank and East Jerusalem coming under Jordan’s control. Gaza was effectively placed under Egypt.

4**.2 Geopolitical Shifts in the Middle East**

The geopolitical dilemma emerged in 1967 with the Israeli assumption to control the West Bank, Golan Heights and Sinai. It has accompanied Israel’s foreign policy from the dawn of its creation in 1948, with new regional developments calling for bolder policies.

As we can see, the Middle East was a relatively stable place, dependent on the balance of the two world powers and their local allies. However, America’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, its unconditional support for Israel and its ongoing economic crisis has weakened its international standing — therefore destablising the Middle East region.

The decline of these two superpowers has left a vacuum filled by geopolitical rivalries over regional hegemony between Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Israel. The future relations among these regional powers are surrounded by uncertainty and may include agreements, rivalries and outright conflicts.

(5) Discussion

The United States administration had 43 Vetos against draft resolutions represented by the United Nations in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian issue — the most controversial one being the US’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The final issue of this draft was proposed to be internally discussed between the US, Israel and Palestine, as had been set by the Oslo Accord, to which the US awaits the opportunity to use its veto power at the UN again.

5.1 The United Nations and International Law on the Issue of Palestine

In July 1980, an Israeli basic law was enacted declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The UN Security Council condemned the change of legal status as invalid, expressing its concern as one that reiterates the overriding necessity for ending the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

This had included Jerusalem — further reaffirming the Council’s determination, in the event of non-compliance by Israel with the present resolution. The UN Security Council called for a reexamination in practicality and means in accordance with relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations to secure the full implementation of the present resolution.

The facts on the ground were that the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem had constituted a form of land acquisition through the means of force — an action prohibited under international law and the UN Charter.

Principle 1 of the UN Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations states that “no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognised as legal,” — a principle recognised as reflecting customary international law. Based on this, Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal and does not negate its legal status as an occupied territory.

As a result of Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem, Palestinians are continuously denied their human rights. They are required to go through a very complex process in obtaining a special permit by the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem.

Due to the fact that Israel annexed East Jerusalem and applied Israeli law, Israel treats the presence of Palestinians without a permit as ‘illegal’. Even in cases where the applicant is in need of urgent medical care that is not available in hospitals in the other cities of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the permit may not be granted.

5.2 US-Administered Peace Processes on Israel & Palestine

There were few attempts to end the dispute between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over territory which started in the end of the 19th Century. The region was then separated into three parts: Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Camp David Accords was signed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. To end the Arab-Israeli dispute, Carter negotiated with the Arab and Israeli leaders to reconvene the Geneva Conference, leading to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Then, the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords I in 1993 and Oslo Accords II in 1995, ratifying them in Washington. These accords marked the pursuit of peace in the Middle East, pushing the PLO to recognise Israel, and Israel allowing the Palestinians limited self-governance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, as it may seem, the outcome is temporary.

The process continued with the last attempt through the Camp David 2000 Summit, involving President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to resolve the dispute between Israel and Palestine.

As the previous Israeli-Egyptian treaty was a success, the Camp David II agreement was expected to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The representatives to Camp David ended with a no-partial or intermediate agreement.

5.3 The Israeli Settlement As An Obstacle to Peace

Despite global disapproval regarding the settlements, East Jerusalem has been the central point for Israel’s illegal policy. Ever since the region was adjoined to the State of Israel, the Israeli citizens had almost no restrictions on purchasing residences in the newly established neighbourhood.

This establishment can be considered the most remarkable Jewish settlement movement by the Israeli government over the Green Line since 1967. This further increase the number of settlers in the region. And while Palestinians comprise over 50 percent of the population of East Jerusalem, only 7.3 percent of its land is available for Palestinians.

In addition, the majority of the extra land was re-zoned to hinder Palestinian use, serving as a land reserve for future settlement facilities and development. Since 1967, Israel has remained in illegal administration focused not only at securing a demographic supremacy of the Jewish population in occupied East Jerusalem, but also at separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, with which it is territorially, politically, socially and historically connected. Israel also has seized more Palestinian property in order to construct a Light Rail system connecting the settlements in East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem, further establishing themselves in occupied Palestinian territory.

As it has illegal authority and control over West Bank, a majority of the resources including farming, water and road goes to them, followed by a major architecture that infringes a range of fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people have also been deprived of the freedom of movement as the establishment of these settlements restrict it — this includes a number of checkpoints and roadblocks to pass. The violation of human rights is further evident in Palestinan’s restricted access to essential resources like water.

5.4 The Illegality of the Israeli Settlements

In November 2019, United States secretary Mike Pompeo had reshifted the US’s position on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a legal entity that does not breach international law — effectively reversing the U.S policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Be that as it may, the announcement made the Trump Administration was ineffective and was still considered to hold no legal validity in international law.

The illegality of the Israeli settlements is evident in their replacement of the local Palestinian population with their own Israeli civilians — exhibiting a policy that is contradictory with the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.

According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, it states that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”.

These provisions of international humanitarian law had clearly stated that Israel is prohibited to establish its settlements on any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and calls for the end of the destruction of property and the expansion of settlements.

To this day, Israel continues to expand their settlements within Palestine — breaching international humanitarian law, as displayed in the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the destruction of private or state property, “except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.

5.5 The United States on Palestine

In 2017, Trump declared that the US has no longer considered Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo made a statement that said the US will no longer abide by a 1978 State Department legal opinion that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law ‘’.

According to Pompeo, U.S. statements about the settlements on the West Bank, which Israel captured in 1967, had been inconsistent, saying Democratic President Jimmy Carter found they were not consistent with international law and Republican President Ronald Reagan said he did not view them as inherently illegal.

That decision drew universal condemnation from Arab leaders and criticism around the world, while Palestinian leaders, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, said the US was no longer an honest broker in negotiations. Palestinians argued the U.S. stance flouted international law.

The international community views the transfer of any country’s civilians to occupied land as illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the US is neither qualified nor is authorized to negate international legitimacy resolutions and it has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement.

(6) Conclusion

This paper can conclude that the Israeli settlement is illegal, and stands firmly against international law — particularly with regards to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council.

It remains to be one of the most intractable issues of peace, and constantly questions the relationship between Israel and Palestine, and the role of international law in determining peace within the regions. The US involvement in the process is starkingly becoming the biggest obstacle in securing Palestinian statehood.

Furthermore, the relevant laws affirms the position of Israeli settlements as a violation to the right of life, liberty, security, and fundamental rights. It is additionally observed that the expansion of these settlements are significant factors to secure peace within the region. It strengthens the argument that this Israeli tool is illegal and breaches international law.

(7) References

  • Tahhan Z., The Naksa: How Israel Occupied The Whole of Palestine In 1967, Al Jazeera
  • Why Israel’s Settlements in Palestine Are Illegal Under International Law | The National World
  • S. Osbourne, Israeli Settlements Are Still Illegal Despite Trump Backing Them, Says UN | Independant
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  • United Nations Security Council Resolution 242
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  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 2019
  • Oslo Accords, 21 August 2018
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  • Al Jazeera. (2019, November 19). Trump and the Palestinians: A Timeline.
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  • Al Jazeera. (2019, November 19). Trump and the Palestinians: A Timeline.
  • Mohammed, A. U.S. Backs Israel on Settlements, Angering Palestinians and Clouding Peace Process
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