Theodor Meron (b: 28 April 1930) was born in Poland, spent four years of childhood and early teens in the Nazi labour camp at Czestochawa and lost his mother, brother and all four of his grandparents in the Holocaust. He became a citizen of the United States in 1984. Prior to that he was Israel's Ambassador to Canada and later to the United Nations in Geneva. He studied law at the Universities of Jerusalem, Harvard and Cambridge.
From 1978 he was Professor of International Law at New York University School of Law. Between 1991 and 1995 he was Professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva and has lectured in several other universities in Europe and the US.
He is a leading scholar of international criminal and humanitarian law apart and was Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of International Law (1993-1998) and a member of the Board of Editors of the Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law. He is a member of French and American International Law Societies and serves in several international humanitarian law committees. He was a member of the US delegation to the 1998 Diplomatic Conference on the establishment of the International Criminal Court in Rome, Italy. He was also Counsellor on International Law to the US Department of State. He was assigned as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 14 March 2001 and designated as a member of the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY and ICTR on 23 November 2001.
Yotam Berger (20 September 2016):
In the documents, senior civil servants admit to various violations of the conventions, including the use of violence against the Palestinian population. They also reveal how Israel sought to avoid defining itself as an occupier in the territories, while admitting explicitly that this claim was put forth for strategic reasons, to avoid criticism, even though there was no substantive justification for it.
One document is a cable sent in March 1968 to Israel’s then-ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, by Michael Comay and Theodor Meron. Comay, a senior diplomat whose previous posts included ambassador to the United Nations, was political advisor to then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban when the cable was written. Meron was the Foreign Ministry’s legal advisor.
The cable, which was classified top-secret, contains instructions from Comay and Meron on what Rabin should do to prevent the United States from forcing Israel to apply the Geneva Conventions to the territories.
“Our consistent policy has been and still is to avoid discussing the situation in the administered territories with foreign parties on the basis of the Geneva Conventions. ... Explicit recognition on our part of the applicability of the Geneva Conventions would highlight serious problems under the convention with house demolitions, expulsions, settlement and more — and furthermore, when we’re obligated to leave all options open with regard to the issue of borders, we must not recognize that our status in the administered territories is solely that of an occupying power,” the cable said.
“In short, our policy toward the administered territories is to try to prevent clear violations of the Geneva Conventions without getting into the question of the conventions’ applicability,” the cable continued.
Comay and Meron acknowledged that the status of Jerusalem was particularly problematic, because the government had already taken steps that would likely be viewed as violations of the conventions.
“The most serious problem is of course East Jerusalem, because here, if the government were to follow the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations, it wouldn’t be able to make far-reaching administrative and legal changes, such as expropriating land,” they wrote. “The Americans recently said that our status in Jerusalem is solely that of an occupation. On this basis, we can’t even talk to them about the issue of Jerusalem, because although here, too, we’re trying to avoid actions that would have international repercussions, there’s no possibility of making all our actions in Jerusalem fit the restrictions that derive from the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations.”The diplomats therefore instructed Rabin “to tell the Americans that there are unique aspects to the status of the territories and to our status in the territories. Before the Six-Day War, the Gaza Strip wasn’t Egyptian territory, and the West Bank, too, was territory that had been occupied and annexed by Jordan without international recognition. Given this ambiguous, indeterminate territorial situation, the question of the convention’s applicability is complex and unclear prior to a peace agreement that includes setting secure and recognized borders.”