The Trump administration has reversed a decades-old policy which had declared Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria illegal.
In announcing the reversal of the policies of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Nov. 18 said: “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not <em>per se</em> inconsistent with international law.”
In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law.
Pompeo said that the U.S. would not take a position on the legality of specific settlements, that the new policy would not extend beyond the West Bank and that it would not create a precedent for other territorial disputes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders lauded the U.S. announcement. Netanyahu called President Donald Trump to convey his personal gratitude for the change.
Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the Trump administration’s policy shift “rights a historical wrong” concerning settlements.
“This policy reflects an historical truth — that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” the statement said.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, said: “The U.S. administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process,” said
In his Nov. 18 announcement, Pompeo said:
I want to emphasize several important considerations.The Zionist Organization of America “strongly praised” the announcement that “the United States no longer adheres to the Anti-Semitic Orwellian lie that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal and a breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
First, we recognize, as Israeli courts have, that legal conclusions relating to individual settlements must depend on an assessment of specific facts and circumstances on the ground. Therefore, the U.S. Government is expressing no view on the legal status of any individual settlement.
The Israeli legal system affords an opportunity to challenge settlement activity and assess humanitarian considerations. Israeli courts have confirmed the legality of certain settlement activities and has concluded that others cannot be legally sustained.
Second, we are not addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank – that is for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. International law does not compel a particular outcome, nor create any legal obstacle to a negotiated resolution.
Third, the conclusion that we will no longer recognize Israeli settlements as per se inconsistent with international law is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank. Our decision today does not prejudice or decide legal conclusions regarding situations in other parts of the world.
Finally, calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace. The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace. This is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate peace, and I will do everything I can to help this cause. The United States encourages Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in any final status negotiations. Further, we encourage both sides to find a solution that promotes and protects the security and welfare of Palestinians and Israelis alike.
The Republican Jewish Coalition called the change a “historic decision by the Trump administration, one that recognizes the facts on the ground and the necessity of a negotiated peace between the parties to the conflict.”
Not surprisingly, leftists slammed the policy reversal. George Soros-backed J Street called the decision “destructive” and accused Trump of “provid[ing] political gifts to Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
The Los Angeles Times editorial board said the move was an “unnecessary giveaway to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s hard-liners” and “is one of its dumbest moves yet. It could delay peace for many years.”
Free Press International