Reading time: 6-8 minutes.
In a recent statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declared that the United States of America, now, does not believe that Israeli settlements in West Bank are illegal.
While explaining the reasons for this change in the position of USA on Israel- Palestine conflict, he stated that the USA also recognizes what Israeli courts had observed earlier – that assessment of specific facts and circumstances on the ground must be taken under consideration for giving out the legal conclusions relating to individual settlements.
He said that the USA, after thoroughly studying all sides of the legal debate, believes that establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law and in the future, will not be recognized so by USA, since recognition is based on unique facts, history and circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank.
It is very important to note here that most of the international forums have believed that Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal. However, USA has, in the recent past, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and now stating that Israeli settlements are not illegal is a step towards pro-Israel policy under the Trump administration.
Background of the issue
The disputed West Bank settlement area of Israel has a huge history in itself. The area was initially a part of the Ottoman Empire, from 1517 to 1917. With the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, Ottoman Empire left its administration and the area, which then came to be known as the West Bank area, became part of British Mandate for Palestine. Jordan captured the West Bank in 1948.
In 1967, when the third Arab-Israeli war took place for six days, Israel captured West Bank from Jordan. From then onwards, Israeli population gradually started shifting and settling in West Bank, and as of now comprise an estimated 15% of the total population. There are a lot of factors due to which the Israeli population has moved rapidly towards West Bank Settlements – these include ideological reasons as well as economic incentive.
However, various International bodies have said that Israeli settlements over West Banks are illegal. The United Nations, right from the beginning when Israel had occupied West Bank, unambiguously stated in its numerous resolutions that Israeli settlements are illegal.
The land settlement of West Bank is the also one of the main reasons for the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Palestinians not only regard the West Bank as their own indigenous territory and the Israeli occupation as an illegal one on stolen land, but are also displeased about the use of scarce resources like water by the Israelis and the harassment they have to face at the hands of Israeli soldiers and what they regard as illegal constructions.
India recognised the presence of Israel in 1950 but there were several impediments due to which India could not connect to Israel for more than 4 decades. The foremost consideration was that if India was to tie up with Israel in 1950s, its relationship with Arab could disintegrate since India was dependent on Arab countries.
Moreover, Arab countries were strategically very important in the post-Partition period for India to maintain harmony in its own territory. India and Israel started their full diplomatic relations in the year 1992. Our relationship with Israel has changed drastically. From anti-Israel to partially pro-Israel, the journey has not been very easy.
The question that looms large is this: why was there a change in Indo-Israel relationship in 1992 and how did they come close together? Albeit Indian pioneers had showed ideological resistance to the production of Israel in 1948, these worries that at first had inﬂuenced strategical choices subsided and made little difference by 1992.
After some time, the Partition and religion-related considerations that had made India side with Palestine had vanished from the front line of Indian governmental issues. Moreover, by 1992, the Indian government was not worried about looking after solidarity among Hindus and Muslims since India was no longer in its earliest stages as a country. During this period, the head of the Muslim nation Saudi Arabia was also moving close to Israel and hence it was an opportunity for India to convert full diplomatic ties with Israel.
In the post-Cold War period, India and Israel have teamed up in a bunch of ways. For instance, Israel is presently India’s third-biggest weapons supplier. Israel has given India ocean to-ocean rocket radar and other comparative frameworks, fringe checking gear and night vision gadgets.
It has likewise redesigned India’s Soviet-period aircraft. Additionally, Israel is attracted to the Indian white collar class; a business opportunity for Israelis. In recent times, India and Israel have come very close together. India also has voted against Palestine on global level recently in 2019 at the UN Economic and Social Council and this has led to strengthening of ties between India and Israel.
India recognised the state of Palestine in the year 1988 following its declaration of statehood, although the relationships had been established much earlier in 1974. India has supported Palestine in global forum many a times and has been its consistent old friend. India supports a Palestine which is sovereign and independent.
Although India has come closer to Israel in recent years but it is still quite evident from the action of the Indian administration that India still supports the cause of Palestine and is trying to manage both Israel and Palestine at the same time. From the Indian point of view, supporting Palestine is a way to maintain good relationships with the Arab nations and to maintain harmony among Indian Muslims.
India’s stance on Israeli-Palestine conflict:
In recent years, a shift in India’s position can be seen in voting patterns; India in these meetings has voted in favour of Israel. However, it has maintained its diplomatic position over Israel and Palestine conflict. On various instances, India has said that it always tries to balance its position on Israel–Palestine conflict.
This is because it neither wants to lose the Palestine side due to dependence for oil on Arab Nations and to reassure the Indian Muslims, nor wants to jeopardize its very good relationship with Israel. It is quite evident from the tours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent years to both Israel and the Palestinian territory West Banks that India still wants to balance its relationship between both the countries.
Over the span of ongoing years, India’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict has been set up in pragmatism. Although India had been a staunch supporter of Palestine’s sovereignty, it has, at the same time, handled Israel very carefully and maintained good relations with both of them.
Regardless of the initial opposition by India to the inception of Israel, important investments caused Indo-Israeli relations to warm up starting from the 1960s without India getting separated from the Arab World. Today, India keeps up relationship with both Israel and Arab nations via Palestine diplomatically.
Due to its close ties with Israel, India can play an amicable role between Palestinians and Israelis. The India-Israel relationship gives a noteworthy exercise in worldwide legislative issues, especially for states whose ideological associations prevent them from forming business ties with other nations.
India has shown that the unprejudiced journey for propitiatory, military, and money related premiums is the best way to deal with the issue, assemble political legitimacy and maintain a standard inspirational disposition without hurting imperative connections.
The future also lies in the same diplomatic positions since both these countries are very important to India. In fact, India has the ability to be the mediator to solve the Israel Palestine conflict and maintain peace in the Middle-East.
Author: Shekhar Kanwar from NALSAR, Hyderabad.
Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.