top of page

Which International Law is Violated by Israeli Settlements?

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

by Ram ben Ze'ev (Conservative Values)

In a statement to the Liasion Committee today, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted that the 'settlements' in Israel are deemed "illegal under international law." While such confident statements have been heard by many, few people have paused to question the specific legal framework being breached, or if any breach exists.

If we were to consider the presence of Israeli citizens in Israel as a settlement and acknowledge the allocation of land to Israel through an International Mandate (specifically, the British Mandate for Palestine) during its establishment in 1948, which explicitly called for the creation of a Jewish State, alongside the creation of other nations like Jordan, then it would be possible to construct the following inaccurate assertions.

  1. The Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, have been a subject of controversy and are deemed illegal under international law.

  2. The primary legal framework used to assert the illegality of Israeli settlements is the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Specifically, Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that "The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

  3. This provision prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilian population into the territory it occupies. The establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements involve the transfer of Israeli civilians into the occupied territories, which is considered a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

  4. The United Nations Security Council has also adopted several resolutions condemning Israeli settlements as illegal under international law. For example, UNSC Resolution 242 (1967) emphasizes "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and calls for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories. Similarly, UNSC Resolution 338 (1973) calls for negotiations based on the principles of Resolution 242.

  5. Furthermore, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its advisory opinion on the construction of the Israeli separation barrier in the occupied Palestinian territories, confirmed that Israeli settlements violate international humanitarian law.

However, it is evident that none of those aspects align with the actual situation on the field.

Israel asserts that it is not an occupying power. The region commonly referred to as the 'West Bank' (Judea and Samaria), which was part of the independent Jewish State established under the Mandate in 1948, was occupied by Jordan and other Arab nations following their invasion of Israel immediately after Israel was established. In 1967, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) removed the Arab forces from the territory. Hence, Israel is not an occupying power as the independent state of Israel itself was occupied by Jordan until 1967. Consequently, Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which addresses the prohibition of an occupying power transferring its population into occupied territories, does not apply.

The various United Nations resolutions most often referred to are not legally binding. The resolutions are simply recommendations made by a UN Committee to the UN Security Council and are lacking any legal authority, therefore, they are not binding upon the sovereign state of Israel.

Based on the above, Prime Minister Sunak's statement to the Liasion Committee was untrue. Israel is not in violation of international law.


Bill White (Ram ben Ze'ev) is CEO of WireNews and Executive Director of Hebrew Synagogue


bottom of page