GENEVA (19 November 2019) – The announcement by the US Secretary of State that Israeli settlements do not violate
international law is a decisive break with international consensus, and will only further entrench the perpetual Israeli
occupation, a UN human rights expert said today.
“This is not a step towards peace or justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Michael Lynk, the Special
Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. “The American
Government’s decision to jettison international law and to legitimise the illegal Israeli settlements is probably the
very last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.
“This effectively grants permission to the Israeli government to formally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank,
as it has already done with East Jerusalem,” he said. “This will only confirm a one state reality characterised by a
rigid two-tier system of legal and political rights, based on ethnicity and religion. This would meet the international
definition of apartheid.”
Presently, there are approximately 240 Israeli settlements and around 650,000 Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the
West Bank. The international community has long held that these settlements are a flagrant violation of the Fourth
Geneva Convention of 1949 (Article 49, para. 6). The Convention strictly prohibits an occupying power from settling its
own civilian population in territory that it occupies.
“The Israeli settlements are a major source of human rights violations, and they are the engine of Israel’s occupation,”
said Lynk. “They are built on confiscated Palestinian property; they rely upon the illegal appropriation of Palestinian
natural resources, including water, land and minerals; and they have forced Palestinians into smaller and more
constricted space on their own territory.
“Most importantly, the incessant expansion of the Israeli settlements has robbed the Palestinians of hope for a future
based on freedom.”
The illegality of the Israeli settlements has been affirmed by virtually every member state of the United Nations. This
is also the position of the International Court of Justice, the United Nations Security Council, the UN General
Assembly, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Council, the International Committee of the Red
Cross, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and by
Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations.
“Monday’s announcement by the US Secretary of State is the latest in a series of recent moves that has undermined the
rules-based international order. Its earlier decisions to recognise Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan
Heights and to move its embassy to Jerusalem have pushed the chances of a shared future by Israeli Jews and Palestinians
based on equality even further away.”
The Special Rapporteur called upon the international community to reaffirm the illegality of the settlements. He also
asked the international community to take further steps to put international law into action by prohibiting the
importation of settlement goods and services into the international marketplace.