Have you noticed how fashionable it has become as of late to refer to Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as “Illegal Settlements”? This, of course, begs the question are they? Are the Settlements Illegal? SUNY’s Nicholas Rostow asks the question and attempts to answer it in the latest issue of AI.

But don’t expect to walk away with a simple answer.  Rostow offers a comprehensive legal analysis of the issue, with 5 supporting arguments for the legality of the settlements and 4 against but no decisive answer.  He concludes:

Although not all the arguments advanced for and against legality are strong, legal arguments on both sides are durable on what are central points of contention. It therefore makes little practical sense to raise the profile of the issue of legality, for it would only add an insoluble element to what is already an extremely difficult problem. The best approach for the United States is to do what it can to advance the cause of peace between Israel and all its neighbors, and to assist the parties in the resolution of all the issues that divide them on the basis of rights for all, Israelis and Palestinians. The U.S. government has a pressing interest in the resolution of these issues but, to succeed, a solution must reflect the parties’ acceptance of the need for peace. We cannot wave a wand a make them see the light. That position fairly describes the view of most U.S. administrations since 1967 and can therefore be said to accord with precedent. It is the wisest course.

In other words, settlements are neither legal nor illegal. (Despite the ICJ’s notorious 2004 ruling,) International law is slightly more complicated than that.  It is exactly these legal ambiguities which call for prudential politics. The implicit message: such labels are anything but pro-peace.

More on The David Project’s Blog – http://www.thedavidproject.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=135&Itemid=128