Catherine Ashton - High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission - was merely parroting European Union policy when she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 30 2009:
“East Jerusalem is occupied territory, together with the rest of the West Bank.”
It was justification enough however for Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to pen an article in the Wall Street Journal on December 30, 2009 pointing out that Israel considers these territories to be “disputed territories” rather than “occupied territories” - the nomenclature adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.
Mr Ayalon stated the reasons for Israel‘s position as follows:
“That's because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered ‘occupied’ in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognised sovereignty before Israel's conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years.”
Mr Ayalon criticised the perception that:
“... Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table.”
Mr Ayalon was affirming that the West Bank was at present “no man’s land” in which no recognised State - including Israel - had yet attained sovereignty.
The current claimants - Israel on behalf of the Jewish people and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs - are yet to finally negotiate on and conclude the allocation of sovereignty between them based on their competing claims.
It was therefore particularly pleasing that Ms Ashton stated:
“Negotiations should be based on international law and respect previous agreements.”
This should be seen as a welcome statement from the European Union since the international law dealing with the legal status of the West Bank and Jewish rights to claim sovereignty there has been consistently and studiously - perhaps even deliberately - overlooked since Israel‘s capture of the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
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