“Occupation” Doesn’t Accurately Describe the Situation of Either Western Sahara or the West Bank

Dec. 21 2020

As part of the deal normalizing relations between Israel and Morocco, the U.S. recognized the latter’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, the status of which has been contested since Spain abandoned it in 1975. The UN and most countries have generally considered the area “disputed,” while maintaining the consensus that the West Bank is “occupied” by Israel. But, argues Eugene Kontorovich, the two territories have similar histories, and, if anything, Jerusalem’s claims to the West Bank are stronger than Morocco’s on Western Sahara. And this is only the beginning of the confusion in the widespread treatment of both disputes:

Traditionally, the law of occupation applies only to sovereign territory of foreign states. This covers most cross-border conflicts but not some post-colonial transitions where there is a gap in sovereign control. . . . When Israel took the West Bank in 1967, it wasn’t the territory of a foreign country. The West Bank had itself been occupied by Jordan in 1948, at the end of British administration. . . . Concerns that the Trump administration’s actions [regarding Judea and Samaria] could be used to justify Russia’s takeover of Crimea are baseless. Crimea was indisputably part of Ukraine, a sovereign country.

Self-determination in international law doesn’t typically mean the right of a people to have its own country. It can be satisfied by some degree of self-governance, and autonomy in internal matters such as language and culture. This is why the U.S. recognition was coupled with an endorsement of an “autonomy plan” for Western Sahara. The Palestinians today have vastly more autonomy than the Saharawi would have in the Moroccan plan.

The Obama administration also supported Moroccan sovereignty coupled with Sahrawi autonomy, as did other countries such as Spain and France—and even the Palestinian Authority. Morocco’s position has bipartisan support in Congress, and thus the U.S. will likely maintain the recognition policy.

There is a huge gap between many countries’ stances on Western Sahara and the West Bank that can’t be explained by legal differences. It will be a bad look for a Biden administration to harp on Israeli “occupation” and “settlers” while maintaining recognition of Morocco’s 1975 takeover.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: International Law, Morocco, U.S. Foreign policy, West Bank

Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada