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Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 29, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu UN General Assembly
Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly on Sept. 29, 2014
ID #: 106
 
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Israel's 1967 Six-Day War - The Legal Aspects of Coming into Possession of the Territories

June 5, 2008  |  Eli E. Hertz

The Arab objective in the 1967 Six-Day War was to overrun and eradicate the Jewish state.

That objective is very much in the minds of the majority of Palestinian Arabs - in the leadership and the general population, as well as in the minds of their brethren in other Arab countries - though their tactics may have changed.1

In June 1967, the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked Israel with the clear purpose expressed by Egypt's President: "Destruction of Israel." At the end of what is now known as the Six-Day War, Israel, against all odds, was victorious and in possession of the territories of Judea and Samaria [The West Bank], Sinai and the Golan Heights.

Core issues leading to those wars are the borders, and one of the key questions is whether borders can be established that do not invite aggression.


Arab's Aggression in Violation of International Law

International law makes a clear distinction between defensive wars and wars of aggression. All of Israel's wars with its Arab neighbors were in self-defense.

Professor, Judge Schwebel, wrote in What Weight to Conquest: 2

"(a) a state [Israel] acting in lawful exercise of its right of self-defense may seize and occupy foreign territory as long as such seizure and occupation are necessary to its self-defense;

"(b) as a condition of its withdrawal from such territory, that State may require the institution of security measures reasonably designed to ensure that that territory shall not again be used to mount a threat or use of force against it of such a nature as to justify exercise of self-defense;

"(c) Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title.

"... as between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what is known as was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."


Who Starts Wars Does Matter - Aggressors Have no Rights

UN Charter Article 51 clearly recognizes "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations" by anyone.

Arabs would like the world to believe that in 1967, Israel simply woke-up one morning and invaded them, and therefore Israel's control of the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria [The West Bank] and Sinai is the illicit fruit of an illegal act - like Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991.

Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, past President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)3 states the following facts:

"The facts of the June 1967 'Six Day War' demonstrate that Israel reacted defensively against the threat and use of force against her by her Arab neighbors. This is indicated by the fact that Israel responded to Egypt's prior closure of the Straits of Tiran, its proclamation of a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat, and the manifest threat of the UAR's use of force inherent in its massing of troops in Sinai, coupled with its ejection of UNEF. It is indicated by the fact that, upon Israeli responsive action against the UAR, Jordan initiated hostilities against Israel. It is suggested as well by the fact that, despite the most intense efforts by the Arab States and their supporters, led by the Premier of the Soviet Union, to gain condemnation of Israel as an aggressor by the hospitable organs of the United Nations, those efforts were decisively defeated. The conclusion to which these facts lead is that the Israeli conquest of Arab and Arab-held territory was defensive rather than aggressive conquest."

Judge Sir Elihu Lauterpacht wrote in 1968, just one year after the 1967 Six-Day War:

"On 5th June, 1967, Jordan deliberately overthrew the Armistice Agreement by attacking the Israeli-held part of Jerusalem. There was no question of this Jordanian action being a reaction to any Israeli attack. It took place notwithstanding explicit Israeli assurances, conveyed to King Hussein through the U.N. Commander, that if Jordan did not attack Israel, Israel would not attack Jordan. Although the charge of aggression is freely made against Israel in relation to the Six-Day War the fact remains that the two attempts made in the General Assembly in June-July 1967 to secure the condemnation of Israel as an aggressor failed. A clear and striking majority of the members of the U.N. voted against the proposition that Israel was an aggressor."

Professor, Judge Schwebel's writings lead to the conclusion that under international law, Israel is permitted to stay in the West Bank as long as it is necessary to her self-defense.


UN "Inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force"

Most UN General Assembly Resolutions regarding Israel read at the start:

"Aware of the established principle of international law on the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force."

Professor, Judge Schwebel, a former President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), explains that the principle of "acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible" must be read together with other principles: 4

"... namely, that no legal right shall spring from a wrong, and the Charter principle that the Members of the United Nations shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State."

Simply stated: Arab illegal aggression against the territorial integrity and political independence of Israel, can not and should not be rewarded.

Judge Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, Judge ad hoc of the International Court of Justice, argued in 1968 that: 5

"... territorial change cannot properly take place as a result of the 'unlawful' use of force. But to omit the word 'unlawful' is to change the substantive content of the rule and to turn an important safeguard of legal principle into an aggressor's charter. For if force can never be used to effect lawful territory change, then, if territory has once changed hands as a result of the unlawful use of force, the illegitimacy of the position thus established is sterilized by the prohibition upon the use of force to restore the lawful sovereign. This cannot be regarded as reasonable or correct."

Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, stated: 6

"Territorial Rights Under International Law.... By their [Arab countries] armed attacks against the State of Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973, and by various acts of belligerency throughout this period, these Arab states flouted their basic obligations as United Nations members to refrain from threat or use of force against Israel's territorial integrity and political independence. These acts were in flagrant violation inter alia of Article 2(4) and paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of the same article."

Columbia University Law Professor George Fletcher further clarified those points, after former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Israel's occupation of lands acquired in the 1967 Six-Day War "illegal." 7

"Annan, Fletcher suggested, is trying to redefine the Middle East conflict by calling "Israel's occupation of lands acquired in the 1967 Six-Day War 'illegal.' 8 A new and provocative label of 'illegality' is now out of the chute and running loose, ready to wreak damage. The worst prospect is that Palestinians will dig in with a new feeling of righteousness and believe that the international community will force Israel to withdraw from its 'illegal occupation.'... Israel's presence in the occupied territories is consistent with international law. In this context, the choice of the words 'illegal occupation' is a perilous threat to the diplomatic search for peace."

Nearly all of the above legal commentary regarding 'wars of aggression' were written long before the Palestinian Authority, a semi-autonomous political entity, launched a vicious guerilla war against Israel in October 2000, but the insights and opinions voiced, beg the question - whether Palestinians as well should not be considered accountable for their repeated aggression when it comes to setting "secure and recognized borders"?

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