Arguments against Israel’s Annexation of the Golan Make a Mockery of International Law

April 8 2019

The minute President Trump announced U.S. recognition of Israeli claims to the Golan Heights, seasoned former diplomats, policy experts, and scholars of international law rushed to condemn this alleged flouting of international norms—bound, in their view, to give succor to imperialists and aggressors everywhere. But such assertions, Shany Mor argues, are so riddled with inconsistencies as to suggest that, in the hands of these practitioners, international law means nothing more than “whatever Israel does is illegal.” Mor begins with the objection that Israel, in seizing the Golan in the 1967 Six-Day War, failed to respect international borders:

The accusation that Israel and the U.S. are flagrantly violating diplomatic and legal norms rests on [the assumption that] the armistice lines created in 1949 between Israel and its Arab neighbors [constitute] de-facto international borders and tries to apply to them the same standards of territorial integrity as an internationally recognized boundary. The problem is that the armistice agreements explicitly say the opposite—and at the insistence of the Arab side. . . . Syria, like Egypt and Jordan, assumed that in a future war it might conquer more territory and didn’t want to be saddled with a binding line. It was not a gamble that paid off.

The problems don’t end there. Even if the agreements that established the 1949 armistice lines didn’t explicitly declare them to be temporary and nonbinding, they would have ceased to have any legal validity when fighting erupted again, as it did in June 1967. As in the 1948 war, the Arab aim in 1967 was explicitly and openly stated: [the elimination] of the Jewish state of Israel. The expectation that the colossal Arab defeat could be followed by a return to the lines from the previous war—it, too, a colossal Arab defeat—would be like the Germans in 1945 expecting they could restore the borders they had in 1919.

A further problem is that the armistice lines themselves rewarded aggressive conquest, putting Jordan, Egypt, and (importantly for this discussion) Syria in lands that were beyond their own prewar boundaries. Israel’s territorial gains are a violation of a post-1945 principle, but Arab territorial gains (which also took place after 1945) are somehow not?

Others have argued that Israel is bound by the borders it inherited from the British Mandate. As Mor points out, it is not at all clear where this would leave the Israel-Syrian border. Moreover,

the almost universal consensus that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is one of the great international crimes of our era would be threatened by the adoption of this norm. If independent Israel inherited the Mandate’s borders on the Golan, then it surely inherited them [east of the “green line” and] along the Jordan River, too.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Golan Heights, International Law, Syria, West Bank

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship