The Supreme Council of the Allied Principal War Powers recognized the Jewish People as the owners of the political rights to Palestine, but put them in trust for World Jewry until they attained a population majority. They had adopted the British Balfour Policy word for word and that was the intent of the Balfour Declaration. SSRN.com/abstract=5304 SSRN.com/abstract=4738

Article 2 of the Geneva Convention says the Convention doesn't apply to occupation of territory when the occupier is the owner of it and has the right to the exercise of sovereignty over it.

See also 4th Hague Convention (1907) Article 43 which assumes that for a belligerent occupation that is subject to its rules, a displaced sovereign must be involved. Here the Jewish People had the political rights to the territory that they gained in 1920 not by conquest in an aggressive war. A better characterization of the status of Palestine west of the Jordan than "occupied" is "liberated" because in 1967 the Jewish People regained control over the land over which it had attained legal dominion as of May 15, 1948.

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    By "Canon Law", do you mean the law of the Roman Catholic Church? If Yes, then how is that relevant? If No, then what do you mean?
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


The answer is that your premises about "ownership" are not true. First of all, "ownership" is not the right concept, which applies to private property. The issue is sovereignty.

The San Remo Conference of 1920 divided up the territory of the defeated Ottoman Empire into mandates under the sovereign control of certain European powers. The British were given control over the mandate of Palestine. There was no entity called "The Jewish People" that was granted sovereignty over the Palestinian Mandate. The Balfour declaration was incorporated to express the intention of the British to establish a national home for the Jews within the Palestinian Mandate. It is important to note the original text of the declaration, pasted here:

His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

In 1947, the recently formed United Nations passed Resolution 181 which partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab sovereign states. This was done after years of fighting between the Jewish immigrants and native Arabs lead the British to conclude that they could not share power under a single sovereign state. The Arabs largely rejected the partition and the war of 1948 soon began.

The Jews were victorious in the war, retaining the territory granted to them under the partition, as well as conquering around 60% of the partition given to the Arabs. Transjordan ended up with control of the West Bank, and Egypt with Gaza.

In the 1967 war, Israel won control over the West Bank and Gaza. These became occupied territories, and were not previously under the control of Israel but of other states. The opinion of the US and several others including Israeli officials was that, although a temporary military occupation of the territories was not against international law, moving settlers onto the land was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. See also here.

Another issue altogether is the extensive settlement on private property. This has been defined by the Israeli Civil Administration as theft.

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    I have to say, I didn't expect to see a neutrally-written answer to this question, but you certainly did a good job of it. A good overview, and by making it an issue of sovereignty rather than ownership, I think you nailed it.
    – Bobson
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 21:22
  • @mbsp It might be worth nothing that Israel does not continue the West Bank occupied territory, but has agreed to follow the "humanitarian" portions of the geneva convention relevant to occupation (though it has not specified which portions specifically those are).
    – Publius
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 1:46
  • @mbsq Also, I wouldn't say that Israel was moving settlers onto the land. The settlers went there voluntarily, often without (and sometimes against) Israeli permission. You could say that the opinion is that "the settlers' movement onto the land was a violation". Otherwise good answer.
    – Publius
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 1:47

I believe Winston Churchill have very clearly said that the Balforour declaration was about creating a national home for the Jews inside of Palestine, but never had the intention of making Palestine into a national home for the Jews... ie. they would get a part of Palestine as a national home, but would not get the whole thing.

The Balfour declaration was not binding in anyway - and the UK also made a similar promisses to the Arabs... in addition to making a deal with the French about how to split the area between France and the UK.

Further more, the Balforur declaration makes a lot of condition about the treatment and rights of the people already living there, which the Zionist probably violated rather badly, thus making the whole thing null and void. In addition we have regin of terror Zionists started in Palestine, with the bombing of British soldiers at King David Hotell, massacres of Arab villiages and ending with the assassination of the UN peace-negotiator Folke Bernadotte... I would think any of this would've made the Governement of "the most British Majesty the King" withdraw it's support from the Zionists.

Besides, the British support for the creation of Jordan, the British refusal to admit any more Jewish refugees to Palestine, and the British support for the UN-partition plan; clearly show that 1)the British didn't intend for the Jews to get the whole area and 2)they didn't feel bound by the promisses made in the Balfour declaration.

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    This is a baselessly accusatory answer that doesn't actually address OPs question.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 21:30
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    @Avi I'm pointing out that the OP is wrong when he claim Balfour declaration promised the whole of Palestine to the Jews - it did not! When the prepositions for a question is wrong, so will any answers to it. The Balfour Declaration wasn't a long-term declaration of British policies; it was loose, unbinding promise made in a letter - one of several mutually exclusive promises. A promise the British government clearly later ignored. And as I pointed out, it also guaranteed the rights of other people living in the area - somthing Israel has clearly violated. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 9:50
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    noting the OP's misinterpretation of the balfour declaration does not tell us really anything about the legality of the settlements.
    – Publius
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:38

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