Why are settlements illegal under the Geneva Convention?
To ensure that a military occupation is temporary, and to allow for a resolution to the conflict, by preventing the occupying power from acquiring long-term interests through military control.
To protect occupied civilians from theft of resources by the occupying power.
To prohibit a de facto situation in which two groups living on the same land are subject to two different legal systems, i.e., apartheid.
To prevent changes in the demographic makeup of the occupied territory.
To the casual visitor or tourist driving through the occupied West Bank or Jerusalem, Israeli settlements may appear as just another set of houses on a hill.
The middle-class suburban style townhouses, built fast and locked in a grid of uniform units, stand like fortified compounds, in direct contrast to the sprawling limestone Palestinian homes below.
Settlement homes, mostly constructed of cement with a cosmetic limestone cladding, tend to fashion a similar look: American-style villas topped by red-tiled roofs and surrounded by lush, neatly trimmed green lawns.
The largest settlement, Modi’in Illit, houses more than 64,000 Israeli Jews in the occupied West Bank. The mega-settlement has its own mayor, as well as schools, shopping malls and medical centres.
Some settlements even have their own universities.
“Every president who reversed his campaign promise did so because he decided not to take the risk. . . . Jerusalem has historically been an issue that provoked great passions — often as a result of false claims — that did trigger violence.”
America’s top diplomat in Jerusalem lives in an elegant three-story stone house first built by a German Lutheran missionary in 1868, a short walk from the historic Old City. But he is not an ambassador and the mission is a consulate, not an embassy.
For decades, those distinctions have rankled many Israeli Jews. The United States, along with the rest of the world, has kept its primary diplomatic footprint not in Israel’s self-declared capital, Jerusalem, but in the commercial and cultural hub of Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to take sides in the fraught and never-ending argument over who really has the right to control this ancient city.
Until now. Maybe.
President-elect Donald J. Trump vowed during his campaign that he would relocate the mission “fairly quickly” after taking office. That in itself is nothing new: For years, candidates running for president have promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and for years, candidates who actually became president have opted against doing so.
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Editor’s note: The U.N. Security Council has consistently maintained that East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 War, is occupied territory subject to the Geneva Convention. The Security Council has declared Israel’s attempt to make Jerusalem the “eternal and indivisible” capital of Israel to be in violation of international law. There are 82 foreign embassies in Israel, none of them is located in Jerusalem.