Last year Michael Lynk, presented his 2017 Report to the United Nations General Assembly. Lynk’s official title is the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967. The report last year analyzed the obligations of an occupying nation and what happens when the occupier fails to fulfill the requirements of a legitimate occupier. (1)
Lynk’s report specified criteria for a legal occupation. They are the satisfaction of four requirements:
1) There is an absolute prohibition against annexation of any of the occupied territory.
2) The length of the occupation must be finite, meaning it must be ended in a reasonable period of time.
3) It must be carried out in good faith.
4) It must be carried out in a way that meets the best interests of the occupied.
Lynk demonstrated that Israel has failed to meet the requirements of a legal occupation, and he called for several actions by the UN. Among these actions was that the General Assembly commission a UN study on the legality of Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territory.
He proposed that one of the reasons that it has not been possible to resolve the Palestinian – Israeli conflict is because Israel is mistakenly seen as the legitimate occupier of the Palestinian Territories.
Lynk proposes that a more accurate understanding of the facts and how they apply given the principles of international law could help member states to act in accord with their obligations under International law, and it could help to clarify what actions are possible at the UN and the International Court of Justice.
Lynk reported at a UN press briefing on Oct 24, 2018 that there has been considerable interest in his 2017 Report and that he had been invited to present the keynote at conferences discussing the issues it raises.
Recently, Lynk presented a related report. Even though Israel will not allow him to visit the area he is to investigate, in this 2018 Report he documented conditions based on information he gathered by various means including correspondence, video conferences, and meetings held in Amman, Jordan. Among his conclusions is that Israel “has twice formally annexed occupied territory under its control : East Jerusalem (1967, 1980) and the Golan Heights (1981).” (2)
Also, his 2018 report documents the deterioration of the Human Rights situation since his last report. And he described some of the gross ways that Israel has treated the Palestinians during the period since 2017.
In the process of documenting some of the most urgent concerns he identified, he observed the continuing expansion and development of the settlements, and the proposal of legislation and actions by various officials which are aimed at formally annexing parts of the West Bank and other Palestinian Territory.
Beyond his 2017 report, the 2018 report partly focused on an analysis of the issue of “the question of annexation, examining both the applicable legal framework as well as the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).”
In modern international law, Lynk points out there is a general prohibition against annexation.
Also Lynk documents several different ways that Israel has “entrenched its de facto annexation of the West Bank” toward “imposing intentionally-irreversible changes to occupied territory proscribed by international humanitarian law.” He refers specifically to the 230 settlements, to the 400,000 Israeli settlers, to the extension of Israeli laws to the West Bank to the unequal access to resources, to a discriminatory legal regime, and to “explicit statements by a wide circle of senior Israeli political leaders calling for the formal annexation of parts or all of the West Bank.” (3)
Lynk describes some of how the UN has helped stop some of the acts of annexation around the world since its founding. Particularly pointing to the principles of international law relating to occupation, Lynk writes, “Annexation is utterly incompatible with the foundational principles of the laws of occupation, which stipulates that the occupying power’s tenure is inherently temporary, not permanent or even indefinite, and that it must rule the territory as a trustee for the benefit of the protected population under occupation, and not for its own aggrandizement. Annexation is also profoundly in breach of the fundamental right to self-determination, an ‘erga omnes’ obligation under international law.” (4)
In his 2018 report, Lynk documents a number of specific ways that Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are effectively carrying out or have carried out an annexation of “a significant part of the West Bank and is treating this territory as its own.” (5)
On pages 18 and 19 of his 2018 report, Lynk lists a series of recommendations for Israel and for the International Community. To Israel he recommends compliance with international standards and laws, and to the international community he recommends holding Israel to international standards, accountability and to the obligations of international humanitarian law.
And Lynk recommends the international community “commission a United Nations study on the legality of Israel’s annexation and continued occupation of the Palestinian territory.”
For two years in a row, Michael Lynk has issued reports that give a better understanding of the Israel-Palestine question which may help in the effort to find a just and lasting solution to this major outstanding question.
(1) UN Rapporteur Michael Lynk Questions Legality of Israeli Occupation, Ronda Hauben, January 30, 2018.
(2) See p. 7
(3) See p. 7-8
(4) See p. 8
(5) See p. 18