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Secret memo damns Israeli claim of legal occupation

July 2, 2012

Saturday, June 2. 2007

A secret warning to the government of Israel after the 1967 Six Day War by a senior legal official over the illegality of building Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories said he still believes he was right.

Theodor Meron, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser at the time, declaration smacks in the face of Israel’s persistent claim that the settlements are not in violation of UN resolutions.

The copy of the legal opinion, obtained by The Independent, marked “Top Secret” and “Extremely Urgent”, said in the words of its author’s summary “that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Judge Meron, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia until 2005, said that, after 40 years of Jewish settlement growth in the West Bank, he “would have given the same opinion today”.

Judge Meron also claimed that following the 1967 war the Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, was “sympathetic” to his view that civilian settlement would directly conflict with the Hague and Geneva conventions governing the conduct of occupying powers.

Judge Meron was reported to have said: “It’s obvious to me that the fact that settlements were established and the pace of the establishment of the settlements made peacemaking much more difficult.”

Judge Meron’s memorandum was obtained from the Israel State Archives. His subsequent defence of it amounts to a direct challenge to Israel’s continuing contention that the Geneva Convention’s provisions on settling people in occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank because its annexation by Jordan between 1949 and 1967 had been unilateral.

The memorandum also says settlements built on private land would explicitly contravene the 1907 Hague Convention.

Mark Regev, the foreign ministry spokesman, was reported to have said: “We do not accept that the West Bank is occupied in the classic sense.”

But Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa, said the position taken by Judge Meron was “agreed upon by legal scholars the world over”.

“Since 1967, Israel has breached innumerable international laws and has sought to excuse these actions by denouncing the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention within the occupied Palestinian Territories,” he told The Muslim Weekly.

“Yet Israel refuses to pay attention thus placing itself above the laws regulating the rest of the international community,” he added.

He called on the United Nations to “reign in this rogue state” by enforcing the resolutions requiring Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and dismantle the illegal settlements it has built.

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