To claim that the so-called West Bank is «Arab» land, will, followed to its logical conclusion, undermine the legitimacy of Israel itself.
The conviction that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal is now so commonly accepted, it hardly seems as though the matter is even open for discussion.
But it is. Indeed, the analysis underlying the conclusion that the settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is «Arab»land. Followed to its logical conclusion, this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself.
For several hundred years leading up to World War I, all of Israel, Jordan, and the putative state of Palestine were merely provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
After British-led Allied troops routed the Turks from the country in 1917-18, the League of Nations empowered Britain to facilitate the creation of a «Jewish National Home» under a mandate while respecting the rights of the native Arab population.
Following World War II, the League of Nations’ successor, the UN, voted in November 1947 to partition the land into Arab and Jewish states.
While the Jews accepted partition, the Arabs did not and five Arab countries invaded the fledgling Jewish state. Those Jewish communities in the West Bank that had existed prior to the Arab invasion were demolished, as was the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Eugene Rostow, former dean of Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs in 1967 during the Six-Day War, argued that the West Bank should be considered «unallocated territory», and that Israel had the status of a «claimant to the territory».
To Rostow, «Jews have a right to settle in it under the Mandate» a right he declared to be «unchallengeable as a matter of law». In accord with these views, Israel has historically characterized the West Bank as «disputed territory».
All legally authorized Israeli settlements have been constructed either on lands that Israel characterizes as state-owned or «public» or, in a small minority of cases, on land purchased by Jews from Arabs after 1967.
Source: Commentary by David M. Phillips. The writer is a professor at Northeastern University School of Law. US.