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Posts Tagged ‘former Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker’

Kerry Scorched by Legal Expert for False ‘Settlements’ Narrative (UPDATED)

Monday, November 11th, 2013

UPDATE The text of the letter is reproduced at the bottom of this article

Former Israeli Ambassador and legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry Alan Baker sent a blistering letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.

Baker did not mince words.

After listening to you declare repeatedly over the past weeks that ‘Israel’s settlements are illegitimate,’ I respectfully wish to state, unequivocally, that you are mistaken and ill advised, both in law and in fact.

Israel too can take off the gloves when shoved so far against the wall it becomes clear there is no one at her back but that wall.

Baker lays out the facts which anyone involved in Middle East diplomacy should know better than they know the back of their hands.  The so-called “settlements,” i.e. places where Jews live in previously non-sovereign territory won in a defensive war are certainly not de facto or de jure “Palestinian land” or promised for any potential future state of “Palestine.”

Baker states the what-should-be-obvious fact that ownership of that land remains an issue to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, as agreed to in the Oslo Accords as well as in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, as witnessed and signed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, as well as representatives of the EU, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.

Baker continued,

Your statements serve to not only to prejudge this negotiating issue, but also to undermine the integrity of that agreement, as well as the very negotiations that you so enthusiastically advocate.

Baker also gives short shrift to the square pegging of Israel into the round hole of the 49th Article of the Geneva Convention. He points out the obvious, but ubiquitously-ignored fact that the relevant article applied to the Nazis forced mass transfer of populations. Such a situation has no relevance to the expansion of a population into open areas with no gun to their heads.  The notion of any parallel between Israelis moving into open areas and the Nazis forcing those they conquered into land controlled by others is repugnant, yet repeated incessantly by those who are either ignorant of history or merely haters of Israel, take your pick.

After several more paragraphs of clear explanation as to why the position taken by the U.S., and so much of the world, is factually and legally wrong, Baker concludes with this closing salvo:

By your repeating this ill-advised determination that Israel’s settlements are illegitimate, and by your threatening Israel with a “third Palestinian intifada” and international isolation and delegitimization, you are in fact buying into, and even fueling the Palestinian propaganda narrative, and exerting unfair pressure on Israel. This is equally the case with your insistence on a false and unrealistic time limit to the negotiation.

As such you are taking sides, thereby prejudicing your own personal credibility, as well as that of the US.

With a view to restoring your own and the US’s credibility, and to come with clean hands to the negotiation, you are respectfully requested to publicly and formally retract your determination as to the illegitimate nature of Israel’s settlements and to cease your pressure on Israel.

There has been no response, as yet, from Secretary Kerry or anyone at the State Department.

Whether there is any response from Washington or not, the points made clearly and succinctly by Amb. Baker are a welcome and too long absent dimension to the general discussions about the “settlements.”  That discussion has been dominated by a narrative devoid of legal, factual and historical accuracy.

False narratives repeated endlessly by ever-increasing numbers of people, nations and diplomats do not make those narratives any more true. Majority does not rule when it comes to facts or to law.

***

Here is the text of the letter from Amb. Alan Baker to Secretary of State John Kerry, dated Nov. 8, 2013

Alan Baker, Attorney, Ambassador (ret’)
P.O.B. 182, Har Adar, Israel 90836
Tel: +972-54-3322643
E-mail: ambassador.alan@gmail.com

The Hon. James Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State,
The State Department,
Washington D.C.

November 8, 2013

Dear Secretary Kerry,

After listening to you declare repeatedly over the past weeks that “Israel’s settlements are illegitimate”, I respectfully wish to state, unequivocally, that you are mistaken and ill advised, both in law and in fact.

Pursuant to the “Oslo Accords”, and specifically the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement (1995), the “issue of settlements” is one of subjects to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. President Bill Clinton on behalf of the US, is signatory as witness to that agreement, together with the leaders of the EU, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.

Your statements serve to not only to prejudge this negotiating issue, but also to undermine the integrity of that agreement, as well as the very negotiations that you so enthusiastically advocate.

Your determination that Israel’s settlements are illegitimate cannot be legally substantiated. The oft-quoted prohibition on transferring population into occupied territory (Art. 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention) was, according to the International Committee Red Cross’s own official commentary of that convention, drafted in 1949 to prevent the forced, mass transfer of populations carried out by the Nazis in the Second World War. It was never intended to apply to Israel’s settlement activity. Attempts by the international community to attribute this article to Israel emanate from clear partisan motives, with which you, and the US are now identifying.

The formal applicability of that convention to the disputed territories cannot be claimed since they were not occupied from a prior, legitimate sovereign power.

The territories cannot be defined as “Palestinian territories” or, as you yourself frequently state, as “Palestine”. No such entity exists, and the whole purpose of the permanent status negotiation is to determine, by agreement, the status of the territory, to which Israel has a legitimate claim, backed by international legal and historic rights. How can you presume to undermine this negotiation?

There is no requirement in any of the signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians that Israel cease, or freeze settlement activity. The opposite is in fact the case. The above-noted 1995 interim agreement enables each party to plan, zone and build in the areas under its respective control.

Israel’s settlement policy neither prejudices the outcome of the negotiations nor does it involve displacement of local Palestinian residents from their private property.  Israel is indeed duly committed to negotiate the issue of settlements, and thus there is no room for any predetermination by you intended to prejudge the outcome of that negotiation.

By your repeating this ill-advised determination that Israel’s settlements are illegitimate, and by your threatening Israel with a “third Palestinian intifada” and international isolation and delegitimization, you are in fact buying into, and even fueling the Palestinian propaganda narrative, and exerting unfair pressure on Israel. This is equally the case with your insistence on a false and unrealistic time limit to the negotiation.

As such you are taking sides, thereby prejudicing your own personal credibility, as well as that of the US.

With a view to restoring your own and the US’s credibility, and to come with clean hands to the negotiation, you are respectfully requested to publicly and formally retract your determination as to the illegitimate nature of Israel’s settlements and to cease your pressure on Israel.

Respectfully,

Alan Baker, Attorney, Ambassador (ret’),
Former legal counsel of Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs,
Former ambassador of Israel to Canada,
Director, Institute for Contemporary Affairs, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
Director, International Action Division, The Legal Forum for Israel

Copy:
H.E. Daniel B. Shapiro, US Ambassador to Israel,
71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv, Israel 63903

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/kerry-skorched-by-legal-expert-for-false-settlements-narrative/2013/11/11/

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