Legal Rights in the West Bank

The Jerusalem Post Magazine had an article last Friday entitled “50 years of law versus reality: experts discuss the history and legal status of the West Bank and look to the future,” by Yonah Jeremy Bob, about the legal basis of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, otherwise known for convenience as the “West Bank”  (

As a result of the Oslo Accords negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993 today the West Bank is divided into two major sections, the so-called Palestine Authority (PA) and the Israeli military occupation, neither of which have recognized international sovereignty.   The PA includes about 95% of all the Palestinian Arabs living in the region (not including the Gaza Strip that is controlled by Hamas).  The article consists mainly of the journalist balancing opinions expressed by various Israeli experts based largely on Israeli Supreme Court decisions and on internal Israeli political considerations.

Thus the left in Israel, represented by lawyers such as Michael Sfard, regard the “occupation” of the West Bank as an original sin of colonial Israel and like most of Israel’s enemies in Europe and elsewhere wish for Israel to withdraw and give it “back” to the native inhabitants, the Arabs.  This view argues that the Israeli settlements are illegal, consistent with the view of most other countries in the world and the UN.

The right, as represented by such international lawyers as Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, tend to take the view that Israel inherited sovereignty of the West Bank from the previous rulers Turkey and the British Mandate, and that Israel has unilaterally not “reabsorbed” the West Bank pending some kind of negotiated deal with the Palestinians.  This view argues that the sovereignty of the area has not been changed since the treaties that ended WWI, and that Israel has a perfectly legitimate claim to the whole area and therefore that Israeli settlements are legal.

Of the two opposing views I of course favor the latter. It seems to me that international law trumps national law, even rulings by the Supreme Court, that in any case deal with mostly details of specific cases (such as the ownership of private land) and are also biased by the overwhelmingly liberal-leftist make-up of the majority of Supreme Court Justices.  Incidentally, unlike the US or elsewhere, the Supreme Court Justices in Israel choose their own successors, which makes for a very unhealthy permanent bias.  Of course, I am not a lawyer, but this article can be dismissed as a collection of opinions and Supreme Court decisions that add up to very little.

As far as the future is concerned, the outcome of who gets sovereignty of Judea and Samaria will depend on historical events, such as future potential negotiations.  I hope that something happens that will help to determine this during the course of the current Trump Administration.