In candid interview, Julie Bishop expresses skepticism about the peace process, says boycott Israel activists are ‘anti-Semitic’
In a rare show of support for Israel’s settlement enterprise, Australia’s foreign minister has said that the international community should refrain from calling settlements illegal under international law, without waiting for their status to be determined in a deal with the Palestinians.
In an exclusive interview with The Times of Israel, Julie Bishop suggested that, contrary to conventional diplomatic wisdom, the settlements may not be illegal under international law. She refrained from condemning Israeli initiatives to build additional housing units beyond the Green Line or from calling on Israel to freeze such plans, merely saying the fact that settlements were being expanded showed the need for the sides to quickly reach a peace agreement.
“I don’t want to prejudge the fundamental issues in the peace negotiations,” Bishop said. “The issue of settlements is absolutely and utterly fundamental to the negotiations that are under way and I think it’s appropriate that we give those negotiations every chance of succeeding.”
Asked whether she agrees or disagrees with the near-universal view that Israeli settlements anywhere beyond the 1967 lines are illegal under international law, she replied: “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”
The position that settlements breach international law — adopted by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union and many other states and international bodies, but rejected by Israel — is based on an interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49, paragraph 6, states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Violations of the convention are considered war crimes under international law. Israel is a party to the convention and therefore bound by it.
‘I don’t think it’s helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you’re trying to get a negotiated solution’
“Our interest is in a negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and we believe that every opportunity should be given to those negotiations to proceed to its solution,” said Bishop, who came to Israel on Monday to attend the funeral of former prime minister Ariel Sharon. “I don’t think it’s helpful to prejudge the settlement issue if you’re trying to get a negotiated solution. And by deeming the activity as a war crime, it’s unlikely to engender a negotiated solution.”
The issue of Israeli settlements should be determined in the course of the current US-brokered peace talks, she added.
Settlements are widely considered damaging to the peace process, with even Israel’s closest allies condemning Jewish construction in the West Bank. Canada, for example, officially considers them “a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention” and a “serious obstacle” to peace.
But since September, when the center-right Liberal Party of Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power in Canberra, Australia has been going to great lengths to demonstrate staunch support for Jerusalem’s policy on the international stage. Under Bishop’s stewardship, Australia has changed its voting patterns at the UN in favor …read more