illegal Israeli settlements

Written by Henri Kouam 1:19 am Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

Getting Away With Murder: The Illegal Israeli Settlements

Although Israel has repeatedly contravened international law, it has carefully avoided accountability for its violations regarding Palestine. Its construction of settlements on occupied West Bank and Gaza is a breach of international law and another grave injustice against the Palestinians.
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Henri is an economist and contributor to Nkafu policy, a think tank. Before this, he was an economist and macroeconomic strategist at Roubini Global Economics, one of the leading economic research providers in London.


There is no shortage of geopolitical outcomes that have caused a stir in the recent past – but only a handful have had such lingering effects. In June 1967 (after the Six-Day War), Israel began the occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip – both of which now make up the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” (OPT). Israel has continued to occupy the aforementioned territories and has overtime begun the construction of illegal Israeli settlements across these areas. These acts of aggression are in breach of Article 39 of the UN Charter, illustrating Israel’s complete disregard for international laws and human rights. Even so, the United States is providing unequivocal support to Israel – despite its foreign policy being based on upholding human rights. The outrage for most of the 20th century has been muted, as fear of vexing the U.S. has made breaching international law a mainstay in Israel’s diplomatic policy. 

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The Israel-Palestine issue has occupied much of the Middle East discourse for the better part of the last two decades. Israeli assertiveness and U.S. acquiescence to the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip directly contravene international law. Amnesty International has branded long-running settlements as a war crime, but no nation is able to challenge the U.S.-Middle East policy – since it would not be able to impose sanctions on Israel due to the influence of the United States. 

The negative fallout from disputes linked to the illegal Israeli settlements continues to undermine any prospects towards a two-state solution, which is further exacerbated by a political deadlock process, and the illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A survey from January 2020 found that 65% of Israeli millennials believe that the conflict will never end, with 52% of Palestinian millennials holding the same view. As the Israelis build more illegal settlements and further encroach on Palestinian territory, the risks of displacement and human rights abuses are likely to grow.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo explained the threat of further annexation, and Israel’s plan to build 1900 settlements and tenders for another 2400 units. She asserts that such an outcome can be considered the worst since the Oslo Accords. Oslo 1 formally known as the Declaration of Principles is a pact that establishes a timetable for the Middle East Peace process. Not only is such a time table now untenable, but Israel has also breached Article X1V of the Oslo Accord, which requires Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area.

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Growing Israeli occupation of Palestine
Growing Israeli occupation of Palestine

The Violation of International Law

It is important not to conflate U.S. anti-terrorism policy and the peace process. Presently, Hamas, the Iranian-backed militia has attacked and retaliated against Israel countless times. U.S. moral recidivism was evident when the current U.S. administration reversed a 1978 State department legal opinion that labeled Israeli settlements “inconsistent with international law”, a position endorsed by the international community and the Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) in a vague attempt to nudge the U.S. into more responsible behavior concerning Israel.

There have been several Security Council resolutions that do not seek to achieve peace, but rather reaffirm previous resolutions that sought to prevent an unlawful Israeli offensive. Security Council Resolution 1544 only served to reaffirm 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 1322 (2000), 1397 (2002), 1402 (2002), 1403 (2002) and 1515 (2003).  Even the European Union (EU), the moral anchor for the global economy, has called settlements unlawful, but there has been no indication that Israel cares for such, since it has the United States, the senior partner in the liberal world order, by its side.

There is no doubt that Israel has flagrantly violated international law (aided and abetted by the United States), while an inept rules-based order lays idle as human rights abuses become a mainstay, and settlement expansion occurs seamlessly. In the case of Israel, the U.S. would be pleased to emphasize its war on terror even at the risk of completely reneging on its values. The Palestinian issues have now become tied to Iranian-backed Hezbollah, and the focus on the constant violations of fundamental human rights and the rule of law is slowly diminishing.

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The Fight for Power

The next decade will be tense and unsteady as the U.S. reels from the political and global fallout from its mishaps in the Middle East. Meanwhile, an ideologically entrenched Iran will continue to dog-whistle at non-state actors in Israel’s sphere of influence. Israel will benefit transiently from its relationships with other Gulf member states that are radically and explicitly anti-Iran, but Iran has proven itself as a regional actor par excellence and will likely ensure that sufficient logistical support accrues to Hezbollah to maintain what it sees as a holy war and a fight for Palestinian rights.  

This is, of course, not imminent, but Israel’s flagrant breach of international law and countless Security Council resolutions suggest that it is unassailable and justified in pursuing a Jewish State. In the absence of greater coordination among Israel’s new allies and full implementation of international law, Israel will use its soft power in the region as a tool to blunt resistance to its expansionist tendencies. However, when international law fails, history shows that jungle justice tends to emerge in the most flagrant ways.

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