The proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, via U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, continue to limp along. Mitchell wound up the talks’ second round on Thursday with no apparent progress. The meetings are scheduled to continue for four months, while the PA continues diplomatic aggression and incitement against supposedly "illegal" settlements (see below).
Despite this, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office spoke of a "possibility" of more goodwill gestures towards the PA. His meeting with Mitchell on Thursday reportedly concentrated partially on water issues. Abbas and Mitchell met on Wednesday in Ramallah and discussed what PA officials called "the numerous Israeli provocative statements of the last few days" regarding Israeli plans to continue building in Jerusalem.
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas said over the weekend that the two sides had agreed “in principle” on a land swap, but without details. Such a swap would involve the “trading” of pre-1967 Israeli land, most likely in the northwestern Negev but possibly also just north of Samaria, for parts of Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu's office denied that any offer had been made.
PA, Media Claim Settlements are Illegal
The PA has made the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria a lynchpin of their campaign against Israel – despite the fact that its original opposition to Israel began in 1964 [when it was still only the PLO] when Judea and Samaria was still under Jordanian control.
Foreign media often state as fact, even in news articles, that the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, and parts of Jerusalem, is illegal. A BBC article from May 21 concluded with the blanket statement, “The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this,” while on May 22, the Houston Chronicle wrote, “The settlements — which are illegal under international law…”
Settlements are Not Illegal
In fact, however, the settlements are not illegal and do not violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, despite what the Arabs have charged of late. Adopted in 1949 in response to Nazi atrocities, the Convention governs the treatment of civilians during wartime, outlawing torture, collective punishment and the forced transfer of civilians to territory under its military control – but does not apply to territory gained as a result of a defensive war, as when Israel liberated Judea and Samaria in the Six-Day War of 1967. Neither do the Oslo Accords nor UN resolutions 242 and 338 outlaw the Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria.
PA Aggression Continues
The PA has not halted rock throwing and other violent acts. PA non-military aggression against Israel continues on several other fronts as well. Leading Fatah official Nabil Shaath said last week that the PA must work towards isolating Israel internationally and preventing it from strengthening its ties with the European Union. Shaath even said the PA must try to have Israel expelled from the United Nations – just a few days after PA efforts to block Israel from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In addition, the PA’s boycott against Israeli-made products from Judea and Samaria gains steam, despite this being a flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords. PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced a new sign on his door, reading, “My home is free of settlement-made produce.” He called publicly over the weekend “on all Palestinian citizens to do the same and to boycott these goods... There’s nothing illegal about what we are doing, and this should not be seen as incitement.”
The PA has not changed the incitement in its educational system and media, refuses to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people or relinquish the demand for the Right of Return.