Saturday, April 11, 2009

What You Call "Settlements"

Stephen Walt, in a post about ways the U.S. could pressure Israel, suggests the following:
"While reaffirming America’s commitment to Israel’s existence as a Jewish-majority state, it could stop referring to settlement construction as 'unhelpful,' a word that makes U.S. diplomats sound timid and mealy-mouthed. Instead, we could start describing the settlements as 'illegal' or as 'violations of international law.' The UN Charter forbids acquisition of territory by force and the Fourth Geneva Convention bars states from transfering their populations (even if voluntarily) to areas under belligerent occupation. This is why earlier U.S. administrations described the settlements as illegal, and why the rest of the world has long regarded them in the same way."

Since in the Arab-Israeli conflict legality is a concept both sides manipulate to get what they want, I doubt it's that helpful or meaningful in this context. I'd actually go a step further and abandon the innocuous term "settlements" altogether. "Colonies," the most common translation of the Arabic term for them, is one possibility, though for diplomacy's sake I might stick with "outposts of expansion." This targets overtly those settlements most controversial within Israel itself, and could raise the issue in the Israeli domestic context while also leaving open the possibility that we mean places like Ariel and Har Homa. More importantly, it calls attention to the real damage Israel is doing to the prospects for a two-state solution, thus shifting the perception of the conflict.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home