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To jazz soundtrack, Israeli official insists settlements are legal

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To be sure Ayalon, an energetic Twitter user, appears to have taken issue with that characterization on his feed in a lively debate between him and Mr. Goldberg. When Goldberg writes "Your entire project is designed to legitimize Israel's hold over the territories forever," Ayalon responds: "I ask you again. where in the video is this stated, even implicitly."

The video is at the bottom of this post, so watch it and judge its intent for yourself. In my judgment, Goldberg certainly has a point, and the overall thrust of the presentation appears to be making the case that Israel should not give up any more land.

Ayalon argues that the territory seized at the time "are not 'occupied territories' but rather 'disputed territories,'" since there was no clear sovereign power at the time, and certainly no legal state of Palestine.

This choice of the word "dispute" is about far more than semantics. Under international law, territory seized in war is generally considered "occupied" and annexing such land as the spoils of war is illegal. But in some instances, as in the case, of Western Sahara, land can be considered "disputed," with no clear owner and no clear legal answers about what's to be done next. Ayalon is, in effect, seeking to downgrade the West Bank to this status, which would make it much easier to keep all or part of the West Bank in perpetuity from a legal standpoint.

To build his case, Ayalon mentions early on that "half of 1 percent of the Middle East" was set aside to be the Jewish homeland before World War II.

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