US says Israeli settlements no longer considered illegal in dramatic shift

Declaration marks rejection of 2016 UN resolution that settlements on the West Bank are a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law

The Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.

Julian Borger and  Oliver Holmes report in The Guardian:

The US has declared that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are not necessarily illegal, in a dramatic break with decades of international law, US policy and the established position of most US allies.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” said Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state. “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.”

He said the legality of individual settlements should be decided by the Israeli courts, and claimed that the US declaration would not prejudice an ultimate comprehensive settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Pompeo even suggested the move would “provide the very space for Israelis and Palestinians to come together to find a political solution”.

The US embassy in Jerusalem, however, appeared to be bracing for a hostile reaction from Palestinians, issuing a warning against travel to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Senior Palestinian politician Saeb Erekat said: “Once again, with this announcement, the Trump administration is demonstrating the extent to which it’s threatening the international system with its unceasing attempts to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle’.”

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, responded with a tweet saying that settlements were “a blatant violation” of international law which would have “dangerous consequences”.

At the same time, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately lauded the announcement, saying the US had righted a “historical wrong” and accepted the “reality on the ground”.

The US declaration marks the rejection of a 2016 UN security council resolution that settlements on the West Bank are a “flagrant violation” of international law and the US legal position on the issue since 1978. It is also a renunciation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which outlaws transfers of population by an occupying power, and a new rift with US allies in Europe and in the Islamic world.

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