Jonathan Zausmer

Occupation for the Perplexed: Myth, Fact, Findings and Fantasy

Myth: There is no occupation only the existence of “disputed territory”

Fact: The International Court of Justice, the UN and countries other than Israel do not accept this definition and regard Israel’s occupation as occupation. Israel alone holds onto the notion that the territory is not occupied but in dispute, and thus absolves itself from any of the Geneva Convention’s rulings on this.

Findings: Israel acts as an occupying power in every respect yet disregards the legal limitations imposed by international law. The case presented for “disputed territory” is analogous to a property between two neighbors where one occupies it and then sets up a restaurant on it. When asked why he operates a restaurant without ownership or a license he simply says: I say it’s a path therefore it is a path, on which I happen to place tables and chairs.

Fantasy: South Africa’s law of labeling goods made in the settlements is a “golden opportunity” for Israel to prove in a fair court that there is no such thing as Israel’s occupation.


Myth: Israeli settlement in occupied territory has legal international standing with the exception of several illegal outposts

Fact: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention it is illegal to transfer population into occupied territory. Thus all Israeli settlement is illegal. This was underscored by Ban Ki-Moon as recently as April 2012. In the event of a negotiated solution, the international community would accept agreed land swaps in order that Israel retains the larger Jewish towns now in the West Bank. The “illegal” outposts are illegal in terms of the Israeli courts which ruled that they are built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Findings: According to certain watchdog groups such as B’Tselem, there are now entire apartment blocks built on land where the ownership rights are at best, questionable.

Fantasy:  Israel may claim ownership to any part of occupied territory by biblical entitlement and therefore settlement anywhere is perfectly legal.


Myth: President Bush was more sympathetic to settlement in occupied territory and therefore more supportive of Israel than President Obama.

Fact:  With respect to occupation, President Bush went further than any other American president in setting the precedent for declaring a future Palestinian State. He created what is known as the “roadmap”. The Roadmap for Peace was an outline setting ground rules for reaching a future Palestinian state in occupied territory. Its basic concept is that the Palestinian side brings an end to terror and that Israel ceases settlement expansion in occupied territory.  It has been endorsed by the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia (the “Quartet”). Obama is merely pursuing a policy that was initiated by the Bush administration in this respect.

Findings: The current government of Israel has curtailed the roadmap process by debunking the Annapolis proposals which were a natural derivative of the roadmap.

Fantasy: A future republican administration will backtrack to a place in time before the roadmap and deny the concept of statehood for Palestinians.


Myth: Israel fulfilled its obligations regarding the roadmap. The Palestinians did not. Notwithstanding, Israel is prepared to negotiate peace with the Abbas government without preconditions

Fact: Looking back on the basic conditions proposed by the Bush roadmap, despite its shaky start in the middle of the second intifada, the Abbas government in the West Bank has since restored law and order, structured institutions for managing a future state and more importantly, brought an end to terror by restraining and detaining groups involved with terror activity. This can be seen as meeting the basic requirements for moving towards a next step.

Israel has not met the basic requirement of freezing construction and settlement expansion in the territories. Israel at the time, also issued a list of unilaterally declared demands which were neither accepted nor integrated into the roadmap concept.

Findings: While the current government of Israel purportedly welcomes unconditional negotiations with the Abbas government, it has not met the most fundamental requirement of the roadmap, which is a cessation of settlement expansion. The Palestinians, the US administrations since, and the Quartet, all of  whom endorsed this proposal see this as a clear sign of bad faith on the part of Israel. Abbas has asked Netanyahu a question which is now being queried by most nations in the world:  “If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, why do you build on its territory?” Indeed the Government of Israel has undermined the underpinning for any serious discussion, yet places the onus of this impasse onto the other side.

Fantasy: The notion that continued aggressive settlement expansion has nothing to do with beginning meaningful negotiations.


About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.