Is all this illegitimate? Of course not—not according to that earlier Security Council Resolution, 242 of 1967, which sets the basis for Arab-Israeli diplomatic processes and never mentions settlements; nor according to the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords, which leave settlements as an issue for final-status negotiations and in no way proscribe them.
Nor were settlements illegitimate according to Eugene V. Rostow, the late legal scholar who helped draft Resolution 242 and, in 1991, asserted in the New Republic that Israel’s right to settle the West Bank is “unassailable” and that “the Jews have the same right to settle there as they have to settle in Haifa.” Nor according to Stephen M. Schwebel, the international-law expert who wrote in 1970 that
As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem….
And what of the implications of the U.S. secretary of state publicly branding communities comprising half a million people as “illegitimate”? They’re clearly very negative, at a time when Israel is subject to a worldwide delegitimization campaign that seeks to drum home big lies about it being a “rogue,” “apartheid” state that consistently flouts international law and deserves “BDS” (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) if not violent attack.