The New York Times Editors Rewrite History in Stinging Criticism of Levy Report Findings
3-d Map of Judea and Samaria from satellite imagery
Our colleague at Israpundit, Ted Belman presented in a companion Iconoclast piece cogent precedents by international legal scholars that support the basic findings of the Levy Report recently submitted to PM Netanyahu. The Report is awaiting his policy review and decision on the nettlesome problems on settlement building in Judea and Samaria. However, that wasn’t the opinion of the Editorial board at the New York Times. An editorial published in today’s edition, “Wrong Time for New Settlements” castigated the Levy report. It argued:
Now comes another, potentially disastrous, blow. An Israeli government-appointed commission on Monday issued a report asserting that Israel’s 45-year presence in the West Bank is not occupation. The commission endorsed the state’s legal right to settle there and recommended that the state approve scores of new Israeli settlements. It proposed stripping the military of its authority to force settlers off land claimed by Palestinians.
Although nonbinding, the commission’s recommendations are bad law, bad policy and bad politics. Most of the world views the West Bank, which was taken by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war, as occupied territory and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. The world court ruled this way in 2004. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars occupying powers from settling their own populations in occupied lands. And United Nations Security Council resolution 242, a core of Middle East policy, calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
A New York Times editorial Tuesday rewrites history and claims Israel “took” Judea and Samaria from Jordan in 1967, when Jordan fled the areas after joining other Arab nations as they converged on Israel in the Six Day War.
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The editorial stance of the Times was not surprising, but its editorial actually twisted the fact that Israel never “took" or conquered Judea and Samaria. The newspaper also repeated the frequent claim, not supported by facts, that all of Judea and Samaria were under authorized Jordanian sovereignty.
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The United Nations partition plan of 1947 was to divide Israel, administered under the British Mandate, between Israel and a new Arab state after Britain had created the artificial country of Transjordan. After the Arab world refused to accept the idea of a Jewish State of Israel, the War for Independence broke out and ended with the Temporary Armistice Lines of 1949. Jordan assumed sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria because its forces had occupied the area.
Jordanian forces fled the entire area during the Six Day War in 1967, leaving Israel to administer Judea and Samaria. Israel could be termed an “occupier” in the land that fell under its control and had been part of the country, but Jordan itself had occupied Judea and Samaria in 1947.
Not to be left behind in critcism of the Levy Report, PA President Abbas weighed into the debate asnoted in a later Israel National News report, "PA Rejects Levy report":
Officials in Ramallah on Wednesday slammed the Netanyahu government's plans to accept the conclusion of the Levy Commission report on Jewishsettlementin Judea and Samaria.
"We will not sign any peace agreement if there is a [single]settlementon Palestinian Land," Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rodier said.
[. . .]
"Israel has no right to be on Palestinian lands,"Rodier said, adding the PA rejected the Levy report in no uncertain terms.
Rodier added that bu Rodier repeated the position of the PA remains that Israel must agree to the pre-1967 lines as the borders of a future PA state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
As Belman notes in his Iconoclast piece:
[The Levy Report] found that the settlements are not illegal. To reach this conclusion it first found that the Fourth Geneva Convention which applies “to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party” does not apply to Judea and Samaria because "Israel does not meet the criteria of 'military occupation' as defined under international law” … as “no other legal entity has ever had its sovereignty over the area cemented under international law."
Furthermore, it found that there was no provision in international law which prohibited Jews settling in the area.
The UN and the EU have for decades repeated the mantra that the land is occupied and the settlements are illegal, both pursuant to the FGC. However, there has never been a binding legal decision on which they based their assertions. The US has been more cautious and considers the settlements “an obstacle to peace” or “illegitimate”. Nevertheless, it leads the chorus in demanding an end to Israel’s settlement construction.
Thus, what the editors of the New York Times and the Palestinian Authority have done is interpret international law through the prism of what the rest of the World thinks, rather the facts in the matter. Secretary Clinton will doubtless convey the Obama Administration views expressed in Monday's State Department Daily Press Breifing when she meets with PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem on July 16th.