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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 11, 2003

MYTH

“Israel has no right to be in the West Bank. Israeli settlements are illegal.”

FACT

Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria — the West Bank — since ancient times. The only time Jews have been prohibited from living in the territories in recent decades was during Jordan's rule from 1948 to 1967. This prohibition was contrary to the Mandate for Palestine adopted by the League of Nations, which provided for the establishment of a Jewish state, and specifically encouraged "close settlement by Jews on the land."

Numerous legal authorities dispute the charge that settlements are "illegal." International law scholar Stephen Schwebel notes that a country acting in self-defense may seize and occupy territory when necessary to protect itself. Schwebel also observes that a state may require, as a condition for its withdrawal, security measures designed to ensure its citizens are not menaced again from that territory.1

According to Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution. Rostow noted, "allows Israel to administer the territories" it won in 1967 "until 'a just and lasting peace in the Middle East' is achieved," Rostow wrote.2