Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Israeli Supreme Court and the Occupied Territories

An 11 judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court decided, with one dissent, that the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was constitutional. The stunning part of the decision which has been completely ignored in many stories on the matter, and which will be of great importance in saving Israel from itself, is the part involving Israel's rights to the Occupied Territories. In the absence of a full English translation of the judgment itself, here is part of the news report from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem:

"The court's landmark ruling hinged on its determination, sure to prove controversial, that the areas in question have never been annexed within the borders of the State, and thus Israel does not have full jurisdiction there. 'Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and the Gaza area are lands seized during warfare, and are not part of Israel,' noted the extended 11-judge panel, headed by Chief Justice Aharon Barak."

This is the standard position in international law and, needless to say, does not only apply to Israel. No country can acquire territory through war, and no country is permitted to move its citizens onto such territory in a plan to permanently annex it (Indonesia's attempt to do this to East Timor was stopped). The sole dissenter to the Court's decision, Justice Edmond Levy, expressly disagrees with this part of the judgment on the traditional Zionist basis that Israel was not an occupying power but had a right to these lands. That view is not the law of the State of Israel. The importance of the decision of the majority, both to the survival of the State of Israel, and chances for peace in the Middle East, cannot be overstated.