The New York Times published an article on the announcement by the US administration of President Donald Trump on Monday that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would not be considered contrary to international law.
The paper's correspondent, Isabel Kirchner, raised more questions than she answered.
Under the headline "Are West Bank Settlements Illegal? Who Decided?", The author noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the US declaration as a "policy that corrects a historic mistake," while the PLO Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat saw it as an attempt by Trump administration to replace "law of the jungle" with international law.
Who is right? What does international law say? What difference will the US declaration make?
In dealing with aspects of West Bank settlements, Kirchner presented what she considers to be "concise evidence" in which she tried to answer those questions.
Kirchner started the brief guide with this question: Are Israeli settlements in the West Bank legitimate?
The UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice all considered that Israeli settlements in the West Bank violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was ratified by 192 countries after the end of World War II.
The Convention obliges any occupying power "not to deport or transfer part of its civilian population into the territory it occupies".
The Statute establishing the International Criminal Court in 1998 classifies such transfers and deportations as war crimes, as well as any destruction or appropriation of property not justified by military necessity.
Israel argues that Jews existed in the West Bank for thousands of years, and that their presence there was recognized by the League of Nations in 1922.
According to the article, Jordan's administration of the West Bank between 1948 and 1967 was not recognized by most countries of the world, and therefore Israel claims that there was no sovereign authority in the region, and therefore the prohibition of the transfer of people from one state to another occupied territory does not apply in this regard. Case.
That argument was rejected by the International Court of Justice in a 2004 fatwa, which ruled that settlements violated international law.
So what are the settlements ? This is the second question raised by Isabel Kirchner in her article, before answering that Israel has built about 130 official settlements in the West Bank since 1967.
A similar number of smaller but informal settlements have emerged since the 1990s without authorization from Israeli governments, albeit with some support, Kirchner said.
Residents of the West Bank
More than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, along with more than 2.6 million Palestinians.
Most of the world sees Israel's expansion of settlement building as an obstacle to a peace deal.
What difference will US policy make? A third question the author writes is that in the absence of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Israel may use US policy to justify building more settlements.
Kirchner cites Michael Herzog, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, that the Trump administration did not object, nor did it agree, to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge to annex settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, which accounts for about a third of the West Bank.