Israeli foreign ministry cadets will from now on be guided by hard-right leaders on tours of settlements in the occupied West Bank so that they can better defend their “legality” against international opinion, officials have indicated.
“We think it does not matter what your political positions are. You must know that the Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is legal,” deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely told Army Radio. “When I say legal, I also mean international law. It is settlement with a historical base and has very deep roots.” The move ensures that the diplomatic corps, which prides itself on its sophistication and professionalism, will remain in lockstep with the expansionist policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Among the new sessions to be added to the cadet’s course are a lecture on the legality of the settlements based on the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory, according to The Times of Israel. It also includes a tour of the “City of David” settlement in the Palestinian Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, to be led by settler leader David Be’eri, who seeks its transformation, based on biblical claims, into a Jewish area.
Israeli officials have advanced a number of arguments for the legality of settlements over the years, insisting that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank because the international community did not recognise Jordanian sovereignty before Israel captured it from Jordan in the 1967 war.
However, the international community views the settlements as illegal and after the war in 1967, the Israeli foreign ministry’s legal adviser, Theodor Meron, ruled that building settlements would be a clear contravention of international law. “Civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Mr Meron wrote to Levi Eshkol, the prime minister at the time. But his advice was not heeded.
Hagit Ofran, who monitors settlements for the dovish Peace Now movement, predicted that the ministry’s efforts to influence international public opinion will fail. “Making better public diplomacy won’t work if Israel keeps building settlements and deepening the occupation instead of seeking peace and a two state solution.”