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

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


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security