Boris Johnson: UK objects to annexation of settlements

British Prime Minister says he has “strongly objected” to Israeli intentions to apply sovereignty to settlements and says England is pushing for the two-state solution.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that Israeli plans to annex parts of Judea and Samaria would “amount to a breach of international law.”

Johnson was questioned on the issue in the House of Commons by fellow Conservative Party member Crispin Blunt, who asked about about possible sanctions if Israel goes ahead with plans to annex settlements in Judea and Samaria.

“I believe that what is proposed by Israel would amount to a breach of international law. We have strongly objected. We believe profoundly in a two-state solution and we will continue to make that case,” Johnson replied to Crispin, who the British newspaper the Jewish Chronicle describes as a “long-term critic of Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set July 1 as his deadline for beginning to assert Israeli sovereignty over settlements on land Israel gained in the 1967 Six Day War.

While the Palestinians have pushed the position that the settlements violate the Geneva Convention, legal experts have for years argued that is not the case and American government policy has flip-flopped on the issue.

The Jimmy Carter administration set its policy based on a 1978 document produced by the State Department that said the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law.

Historian Shmuel Katz analyzed the document and concluded the authors “tailored their opinion to suit the government’s policy,” noting it was full of “distortion, not always subtle, both of the relevant facts and of the international agreement Israel is alleged to have contravened.”

Even Carter, who later visited settlements in 2009 and seemed to have a change of heart, said that in his opinion certain settlement blocs would stay as part of Israel “forever.” Carter is known for being pro-Palestinian, yet he said some settlements would not be “abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory.”

When Ronald Reagan succeeded Carter in the White House, Reagan’s opinion was that settlements were not inherently illegal and U.S. policy changed accordingly.  Since then the settlements were seen as “illegitimate,” but not illegal and that policy continued until the Obama administration in 2016 decided not to veto a UN resolution 2334 that called settlements a “flagrant violation.”

Then last year Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States had examined the issue closely and decided to change its policy on settlements, agreeing with the Reagan position that the presence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria does not violate international law.

“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate the United States has concluded that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said.

Professor Eugene Kantorovich of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School has authored several papers that give a deep analysis of the issue and the original 1978 State Department document, concluding there were major errors in the assumptions used and that “Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law.”

Middle East analyst Richard Kemp noted that the area involved was previously occupied by Jordan, which absolved any claims to sovereignty and signed a peace treaty with Israel.

“Israel is not planning to annex any Palestinian territory. Its proposed implementation of sovereignty over areas of Judea and Samaria are legitimate and in line with international rule of law,” Kemp said.