Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Occupied Palestinian Territories – Bringing the U.N. Security Council Resolutions into Sharper Focus
HIRAYAMA Kentaro  /  Former NHK Executive Commentator

April 28, 2015
This April, Palestine became a member of the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian government says it will present two cases to the ICC: one claiming that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory in the West Bank of the Jordan River constitutes an illegal act of aggression; and another condemning the Israeli Army's killing of numerous civilians in Gaza and elsewhere as a war crime. These cases are aimed at prosecuting individuals responsible for the acts, and the ensuing legal process is likely to be full of twists and turns. Let us examine Israel's counterargument against the case concerning Palestine's "occupied territory" in the West Bank.

The entire area of the West Bank including East Jerusalem is recognized by Palestinians and international opinion in general as "territory under Israeli occupation" since the Six Day War in 1967. However, Israel claims that the pre-1967 borderlines were merely ceasefire lines and not national borders, because at the time Israeli statehood was not recognized by its Arab opponents. Based on this premise, the "West Bank" region in question could only be disputed territory, as opposed to being "occupied territory."

Meanwhile, Resolution 242 adopted by the U.N. Security Council as a formula for peace in the immediate aftermath of the war in 1967 did not specify the boundaries to which Israel should withdraw, expressing only its intent of seeking "peaceful coexistence across borders recognized by all parties through negotiation." The resolution strongly reflected the intentions of the United States and its sympathy towards Israel. That is why the United States - despite its role as mediator in subsequent peace talks – has only gone so far as to criticize Israel's drive to establish Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as being "harmful to peace," while shying away from condemning the "illegality" of the act under international law. There was also the pro-Israeli U.S. Congress to consider.

Since former U.S. President George W. Bush accepted the "two-state" solution of creating a Palestinian state that could coexist with Israel, both Israel and Palestine have voiced their support, along with the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, the United Nations and the international community. Yet, the United States has not offered any guidelines on the specific borderlines to which Israel should withdraw, leaving 60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli occupation. Moreover, the right-wing Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to fend off the center-left Zionist Union in Israel's general election that took place in March. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to remain at the helm of a right-wing coalition government for another term.

In the final days of his campaign, Mr. Netanyahu rattled the Obama administration by giving speeches declaring he "will not recognize Palestinian statehood" in a bid to capture voters on the far right of even his Likud Party. He has since backtracked on some of the comments he made during the election following initial reactions from the U.S. government, which said in effect that it may re-evaluate its position of protecting Israel at the United Nations. However, it is doubtful that Mr. Netanyahu will make any serious effort to realize the two-state solution.

Amid these developments, the European Parliament lost no time in passing a resolution supporting the creation of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borderlines, with Jerusalem as its capital. The resolution clearly stated that Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank are "illegal." The move was led by France, which plans to submit a new resolution to the U.N. Security Council that would require Israel to commit to a deadline for withdrawing from the territory it occupies. France is expected to seek U.S. approval by presenting the resolution in connection with the nuclear talks with Iran that are currently being pursued by the Obama administration.

During the U.N. General Assembly meeting in 2013, Japan, instead of abstaining, voted in favor of a resolution that elevated Palestine's status from an observer organization without voting rights to that of a non-member observer "state." Ambiguity surrounding the Security Council resolutions has long been an obstacle to the Middle East peace process. Reflecting upon that past, and in view of the emphasis Japan places on the United Nations in its diplomatic stance and the possibility of its becoming a non-permanent member of the Security Council later this year, I suggest Japan make a contribution to breaking the impasse in the peace process. I feel this even stronger now, as the "deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance" raises the probability of Japan taking military related action in a broader arena including the Middle East.

Kentaro Hirayama is former NHK Executive Commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山 健太郎 / 元NHK解説主幹

2015年 4月 28日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Occupied Palestinian Territories – Bringing the U.N. Security Council Resolutions into Sharper Focus