For an Israeli politician, there is a delicate balance that must be maintained. He must back settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank to ensure political support, but not so much that he winds up in the Hague as a war criminal.
That’s the report coming out of senior Netanyahu aides today, who say that the Prime Minister’s decision last month to evacuate settlers from a house in Hebron after his Attorney General warned him that not doing so would be a war crime.
Most of what Israel does in the West Bank could be defined as a war crime, but since 1967 the international community has mostly resigned itself to shrug off the bulk of such activity, and only gets riled up by the really big crimes.
Attorney General Weinstein’s legal opinion is also weighing heavily on the Ulpana settlement homes, which the Israeli High Court has repeatedly ordered demolished because they are built on private Palestinian land. Weinstein warned that not following through would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which forbid moving population into occupied territory.
Of course, moving population into occupied territory is right in Israel’s current far-right coalition government’s wheelhouse, and has been a centerpiece of Israel’s policy in the territory for decades. The International Court of Justice has previously termed Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation.”