Washington’s Reassessment of the Jewish Presence in the West Bank Isn’t Complete

Jan. 15 2020

In 1978, Herbert Hansell, then the legal adviser to Jimmy Carter’s State Department, composed a memorandum arguing that any Israeli civilian settlement in lands taken during the Six-Day War was a violation of international law and the Geneva Convention. U.S. policy on the settlements changed under subsequent administrations, but recently Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has gone so far as to reject the Hansell memo explicitly. While this decision is undoubtedly for the best, writes Vivian Bercovici, its significance should not be overstated:

In his November statement, Pompeo noted that the settlements are not “per-se” illegal; meaning that they are not in themselves intrinsically illegal. Last Wednesday, the secretary of state said that the settlements were not “inherently” illegal—meaning in a permanent, immutable, or fundamental way.

As I understand [it], the language remains somewhat equivocal, leaving Pompeo some wiggle room for future negotiations, interpretations, and so forth. . . . Pompeo explicitly rejects the Hansell memo. But he stops short of an unequivocal declaration on the legality of all settlement activity by qualifying them as not being inherently illegal. Otherwise, why split hairs? Why not just omit “inherently”?

I know from direct experience that there are many Hansell-like memos and “opinions” yellowing in the off-site archives of numerous foreign services. Diplomatic thinking on the issue [of the settlements] has been frozen for 40 years, reflecting a blind commitment to the falsehood of chronic Israeli breaches of the Geneva Convention. The fact that Israel defended its eastern border from an unprovoked attack by Jordan, and subsequently trounced the kingdom’s forces, made the Six-Day War a defensive war, which is treated very differently under international law. But that doesn’t fit the upside-down narrative that has captured the imaginations of generations of leaders and foreign-policy influencers: that Israel is the aggressor and chief violator of international decency.

Pompeo should be commended for exposing the Hansell sham, but he has by no means slain the beast.

Read more at Commentary

More about: International Law, Jimmy Carter, Mike Pompeo, Settlements, Six-Day War


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria