Daniel Edelson
November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Legal experts told Ynet Monday that if the Palestinians go through with their plan of unilaterally declaring a state in the West Bank, the settlers there could find their status changed to that of illegal residents.

The dean of Bar Ilan University's faculty of law, Professor Yaffa Zilbershatz, told Ynet that in the case of Palestinian statehood, "the settlers would become a minority that an enlightened state must respect".

Zilbershatz said that a growing trend in international law dictates the settlers could not be expelled as a minority, and that the Palestinians must offer them citizenship.

But she warns that the Palestinians would not have to respect this trend. "The Palestinians could claim that the settlers are not legitimate residents, meaning they reside on territory in violation of international law, because they are citizens of a holding country and they should not have been allowed to live in the held territory," she said.

"On the basis of this claim, they could deport the population from the area, as though they were illegal residents."

But Dr. Robbie Sabel, former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, says the settlers' fate will be determined by Israel, not the Palestinians.

"Israel is eventually the one to decide," he said. "In any case most countries in the world currently see the settlements as illegal… so their position according to international law is in a gray area."

Sabel claims that international law does not recognize unilateral declarations of statehood, so not only will the Palestinians not be able to determine the status of the settlers, they will also be incapable of setting their own borders.

"Borders need to be determined by the countries involved," he explained. "One side cannot just up and determine a one-sided reality. They can solve this with negotiations or they can resort to legal means."


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