In order to understand why international law prohibits policies such as settlements, house demolitions, and sets out the restrictive use of natural resources, it is important to understand the limitations placed on an Occupying Power. Their powers cannot be equated with a sovereign state, they must administer for the benefit of the local protected population, whilst maintaining status quo.
Principles of IHL and Occupation
The main principles which underpin the administration of occupation are:
- Protecting and ensuring the welfare of the local population
- General obligation to leave local law in place
- limited nature of measures which may be taken for the security needs of the occupying forces
- Strict prohibitions on displacement of local population
- Strict prohibition of transfer of populations into occupied territory
In the context of the situation in the oPt, the key concerns relate to the transfer of populations into the occupied territory, the application of a broad range of policies placing communities at risk of forcible transfer, exploitation of natural resources, de facto annexation of territory by the building of the wall, destruction of private property and the appropriation of property and impediments to humanitarian assistance.
A detailed study of the policies and practices of Israel as the occupying power, suggest that Israel is not just violating clear and explicit rules of IHL in a number of practices, but is assuming and exercising authority to apply policies with long-term implications, contrary to the spirit of IHL and undermining Palestinian self determination.
Which Israeli body is in charge of administering the oPt?
The Israeli military administration or the so called Civil Administration (ICA) was established by the Israeli government in 1982 pursuant to Military Order No. 947 with the mandate to
administer the civil affairs in the area [West Bank]… for the welfare and benefit of the population and for provision and operation of public services, considering the need to maintain proper administration and public order in the area.
Its mandate includes serving both Israeli settlers and Palestinians. However, because of this dual role the civil administration does not administer the oPt in a manner that ensures the genuine welfare of the local Palestinian population and respecting their fundamental guarantees as the occupied protected population. The Civil Administration is sub-ordinate to COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) and is composed of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens and has no formal Palestinian representation.