The Unexplored Option: Jewish Settlements in a Palestinian State


The withdrawal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, the recent Hamas victory in the Palestinian Authority elections, and the forthcoming Israeli elections in which the newly-formed Kadima Party is expected to receive a plurality of the votes have all focused attention upon the fate of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The present head of the Kadima Party, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has even signalled that, if Kadima forms the next Israeli government, Israel will withdraw from many of the settlements on the West Bank, although different statements from different Kadima spokespeople leave ambiguous which settlements might be removed. Not only Palestinians, but most nations, international bodies and NGO’s consider the establishment of the settlements as having violated international law and their presence as precluding a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The notion that Israeli settlements are an, if not the obstacle to peace, is premised primarily on the assumption that Israeli settlements will eventually mean Israeli sovereignty. In contrast, this article explores an option that has never been considered -- the continuance of the settlements in a Palestinian sovereign state – on the theory that it is possible, at least theoretically, to have both Arab “sovereignty” over lands and Jewish communities within that sovereignty. After exploring the reasons why Israel cannot retain both the West Bank and its identity as a democratic Jewish state, the bulk of the article outlines those arguments that support continuance rather than removal of the settlements and then identifies and addresses the conditions under which continuance can occur. One of these conditions, relating to the status of the settlements under international law, contains original research into the origins and meaning of the sixth paragraph of Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, the most frequently cited provision for the allegation that the settlements do violate international law.


Comparative and Foreign Law | International Law | Law and Politics

Date of this Version

March 2006