U.S. softens stance on Israeli settlements, draws Palestinian outrage

  • 02:23 19 November 2019

U.S. softens stance on Israeli settlements, draws Palestinian outrage

The United States on Monday effectively backed Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank by abandoning its four-decade-old position that they were “inconsistent with international law,” APA rpeorts quoting Reuters.

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to remain in power after two inconclusive Israeli elections this year, and a defeat for the Palestinians.

Pompeo said U.S. statements about the settlements on the West Bank, which Israel captured in 1967, had been inconsistent, saying Democratic President Jimmy Carter found they were not consistent with international law and Republican President Ronald Reagan said he did not view them as inherently illegal.

“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department, reversing a formal legal position taken by the United States under Carter in 1978.

His announcement drew immediate praise from Netanyahu, condemnation from Palestinian officials and a U.S. warning to Americans in the region to exercise greater vigilance because those opposing the move “may target U.S. government facilities, U.S. private interests and U.S. citizens.”

Netanyahu said the U.S. decision “rights a historical wrong” and called on other countries to take a similar stance.

Palestinians, however, voiced outrage.

“The United States is neither qualified nor is authorized to negate international legitimacy resolutions and it has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a statement.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration was threatening “to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle.’”

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said the U.S. policy change would have “dangerous consequences” for the prospects of reviving peace talks and called settlements “a blatant violation of international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

Pompeo said the move was not meant to prejudge the status of the West Bank, which the Palestinians hope will become part of an eventual Palestinian state as part of a wider resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate,” he said, saying the U.S. decision was not meant “to compel a particular outcome nor create any legal obstacle to a negotiated resolution.”