The Legality of Israeli Settlements -Michael Curtis
There is no clear, universally-accepted international law on the question of the settlements. A simple definition of an Israeli settlement is a residential area built across the so-called "Green Line," the 1949 cease-fire line. This ignores the existence of Jewish settlements before the State of Israel was established. They include Hebron, many centuries old, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, and those established during the British Mandate, such as Neve Ya'acov, north of Jerusalem, the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank, and some north of the Dead Sea.
Critics of the settlements often refer to Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." About this argument a number of responses can be made. Most important, no Israeli is being deported or transferred to the settlements; for various reasons Israelis are going to them voluntarily.
The areas of the settlements are neither under the legitimate sovereignty of any state, nor on private Arab land. They are also not intended to displace any Arab inhabitants nor have they done so. No Palestinian Arab is being deported from place of residence to anywhere else.
The competing claims of Israel and Palestinians can only be resolved by peaceful negotiations. If Palestinians can make legitimate claims to the disputed land, so can Israel by virtue of its historic and religious connections. The Israeli presence in the disputed areas is lawful until a peace settlement, because Israel entered them lawfully in self-defense.
The writer is distinguished professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University.