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Kfar Etzion, the Meron Opinion and the Illegality of Settlement

September 22nd, 2008by Gershom Gorenberg · 19 Comments · Politics and Policy

Gershom Gorenberg

Today, according to the Hebrew calendar, is the anniversary of the founding of the first Israeli settlement in the West Bank following the Six-Day War. (Settlement had already begun in the Golan Heights.) In honor of the anniversary, I’ve decided to begin a project that’s been on my mind: An online archive of important historical documents dealing with the history of settlement.

The archive is located here. The first document is Theodor Meron’s legal opinion on civilian settlement in the occupied territories.

Meron was legal counsel of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in September 1967. He was asked by the Prime Minister’s Office for his opinion on the legality of civilian settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a cover note to his opinion, he summarized his conclusion: “…civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Less than a week after Meron sent his memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office, Prime Minister Eshkol told the cabinet that he had approved settlement at Kfar Etzion.

The file here includes Meron’s cover note, dated September 18, 1967; another cover note, showing that the opinion was passed onward to the justice minister; and the opinion itself.

For further context, see The Accidental Empire, Chapter 4, and my article in The New York Times, “Israel’s Tragedy Foretold,” March 10, 2006.

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