Nestled in this all over-the-place article written by Ethan Bronner in today’s New York Times is this factually-challenged nugget:
Both East Jerusalem and the Golan were officially annexed by Israel through parliamentary votes, so by Israeli law they count as Israeli territory. That is not true of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as their future state and where Israel has settled more than 300,000 Jewish citizens.
That paragraph is in the middle of an article that, in part, is about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for a bill that would require a national referendum in Israel on giving up the occupied territories.
Bronner’s reporting gives readers no substantive understanding of why East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are a huge part of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Those territories, captured by Israel during the 1967 War, were indeed unilaterally annexed by the Israeli government. So it’s true, as Bronner writes, that they “count as Israeli territory” under Israeli law.
But not under international law, which is really the relevant body of law to look at when discussing Israel/Palestine. This is how the United Nations’ Goldstone report describes East Jerusalem:
After 1967, the two areas [referring to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip] were administered directly by military commanders until 1981 and since then through a “Civil Administration” established by the Israeli armed forces. “Military orders” were used to rule the civil affairs of the Palestinian population superimposing and often revoking pre-existing Jordanian laws in the West Bank and Egyptian laws in the Gaza Strip. East Jerusalem was annexed to the Israeli municipality of the city and in 1980 the Knesset passed a law which declared that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”. With Security Council resolution 478 (1980), the United Nations declared this law “null and void”, condemning any attempt to “alter the character and status of Jerusalem”. No member of the United Nations, apart from Israel, recognizes the annexation of East Jerusalem.
This is how UN Security Council Resolution 497, passed in the aftermath of Israel’s declaration of the Golan Heights in Syria as falling under the laws, jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel, characterized the Syrian territory:
The Security Council,
Having considered the letter of 14 December 1981 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic contained in document S/14791,
Reaffirming that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the principles of international law, and relevant Security Council resolutions,
1. Decides that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect;
2. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, should rescind forthwith its decision;
3. Determines that all the provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 continue to apply to the Syrian territory occupied by Israel since June 1967;
4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the implementation of this resolution within two weeks and decides that in the event of non-compliance by Israel, the Security Council would meet urgently, and not later than 5 January 1982, to consider taking appropriate measures in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
The whole focus on whether Israelis will voluntarily give up illegally occupied territory is irrelevant. International law is crystal clear, and it doesn’t bend to the popular will of Israeli citizens.