Middle East conflict: Switzerland’s position

Switzerland is committed to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on a two-state solution. It recognises the state of Israel according to the 1967 lines and is committed to the establishment of a viable, contiguous and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital based on the 1967 borders. Switzerland considers the territories controlled or annexed by Israel and located beyond the 1967 borders to be occupied as defined under international humanitarian law. It also considers the Israeli settlements to be illegal under international humanitarian law and a major obstacle to peace and the implementation of the two-state solution.

 

Commitment to a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict

In keeping with its tradition of providing good offices and promoting international law, Switzerland has been involved for several years in facilitating a negotiated, just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

It considers that any solution to the Middle East conflict must be based on the following elements:

  • the establishment of a negotiated and lasting peace throughout the region based on international law, including between Israel and Lebanon and between Israel and Syria
  • the principle of "land for peace" and resolutions 242, 338, 497 and 1515 of the United Nations Security Council
  • the fulfilment, through negotiation, of the so-called two-state solution as envisaged in particular in the peace initiative of the Arab League
  • respect for the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognised borders
  • the realisation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination through the establishment of a viable, contiguous and sovereign Palestinian state with East-Jerusalem as its capital and based on the 1967 borders
  • the restoration of Palestinian geographical, political and social unity through an inclusive process of reconciliation
  • a just, comprehensive and negotiated solution to the problem of the Palestine refugees
  • a negotiated comprehensive settlement to the final status of Jerusalem in conformity with resolution 478 of the United Nations Security Council which respects the rights and aspirations of all the parties concerned
  • an overall negotiated agreement on all other aspects of the final status questions: water, security, prisoners

The territory of Israel, the occupied Arab territories and the occupied Palestinian territory

In conformity with United Nations Security Council resolution 242, Switzerland recognises the State of Israel within the borders that existed prior to the Six-Day War from 5 to 10 June 1967 ("Green Line").

The organs of the United Nations, including the International Court of Justice and the Security Council, have regularly affirmed that all territories controlled or annexed by Israel and situated beyond the 1967 borders are occupied within the meaning of international humanitarian law.

The occupied Arab territories include:

  • the occupied Palestinian territory
  • the Golan Heights

The occupied Palestinian territory comprises:

  • the West Bank, including East-Jerusalem
  • the Gaza Strip

In the absence of an international agreement on the status of Jerusalem, Switzerland, like the rest of the international community, has its embassy in Tel Aviv.

Accordingly, Switzerland will not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, unless it results from a negotiated agreement between the parties. This position has notably been affirmed in UN Security Council resolution 2334.  

Applicable law in the occupied Arab territories

Switzerland considers that international humanitarian law – particularly the fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 (SR 0.518.51) – and international human rights law are applicable in the occupied Arab territories.

The fourth Geneva Convention protects the civilian population and defines the rights and obligations of Israel as an occupying power. Switzerland emphatically states on a regular basis that the fourth Geneva Convention must be fully respected in all circumstances. It calls on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations with respect to international humanitarian law and human rights law. It also appeals to all parties to renounce violence and any other action that could compromise peace efforts.

The Israeli settlements

The Israeli settlements (the settlements) are illegal according to international humanitarian law (article 49(6) of the fourth Geneva Convention) and constitute a gross violation of human rights, in particular with regards to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people as well as its right to self-determination. Switzerland also considers the settlements to be a major obstacle to peace and the implementation of the two-state solution. This position has notably been affirmed in UN Security Council resolution 2334. 

Economic and financial activities linked to the settlements in the occupied Arab territories may not receive any support from Switzerland.

Financial transactions, investments, purchases, acquisitions or any other economic activities linked to the settlements or benefiting the settlements may pose legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the settlements are established and developed in violation of international law. This can lead to legal disputes related to land, water, mineral resources and other natural resources that can be purchased or invested in. Individuals and businesses that are planning private economic or financial activities linked to the settlements are advised to seek appropriate legal advice from a private consulting firm before carrying out such activities.

The separation barrier 

The building of the separation barrier, inasmuch as it deviates from the "Green Line", contravenes international law (“Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, 9 July 2004).  Switzerland is therefore opposed to such a construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as all expropriations or demolitions undertaken to this end.

Consequences for Switzerland 

Switzerland therefore does not recognise as legal the establishment or existence of settlements in the occupied Arab territories. Consequently:

  1. It does not recognise Israeli authority beyond the 1967 borders.
  2. It cannot conclude treaties with Israel which concern the territories it controls beyond the 1967 borders.
  3. It does not apply existing bilateral treaties between Switzerland and Israel in territories beyond the 1967 borders.
  4. It does not conduct official relations with Israel in territories beyond the 1967 borders (except in specific cases of need); this concerns in particular the establishment of diplomatic missions or the sending of consular agents, as well as any activity or visit in the company of representatives of the Israeli authorities on the territories in question.
  5. It discourages natural persons or legal entities from participating in any manner whatsoever in settlement activities.