Published: Tue, November 19, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

U.S. backs Israel on settlements, angering Palestinians and clouding peace process

U.S. backs Israel on settlements, angering Palestinians and clouding peace process

"We are not addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank".

Pompeo insisted that the timing of the announcement was not meant to give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he watches to see if his rival Benny Gantz is able to form an Israeli governing coalition or to distract from impeachment proceedings in Washington, but was based only on the conclusion of a comprehensive legal review conducted by administration lawyers.

In 2018, the U.S. also announced it was cutting its contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

"We consider Washington's decision as another step aimed at scrapping the global legal base of the Middle East settlement", Moscow stated, adding the USA move will only further undermine the "already tense situation in Palestinian-Israeli relations".

As long ago as 1975, the Los Angeles Times editorial page called the settlements an "obstacle to peace" and we have not veered from that position since.

The European Union said that its position on Israeli settlements "is clear and remains unchanged".

Pompeo announced on Monday that the United States no longer considers Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria to be illegal.

Mike Evans, founder of The Jerusalem Prayer Team and a member of Trump's informal group of evangelical Christian advisers, praised the move.

Mr. Netanyahu said that branding settlements as illegal denies "truth, history and facts on the ground", and harms prospects for peace.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is Jewish, strongly criticized the Trump administration's new position on settlements as well. He explained that the future of Israeli settlements "should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and promote peace", not by dueling legal claims.

Russian Federation said the USA decision was "another step aimed at scrapping the global legal framework for the Middle East settlement". Irrespective of its formal position, successive administrations have backed Israel's military aggression in the region, its expansion of the settlements and use of force against the Palestinians, using its veto power in the UN Security Council to quash at least 43 Israel-related draft resolutions. For example, Mr. Pompeo faulted the Obama administration for its decision not to veto a 2016 United Nations resolution demanding a halt to settlement activities.

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Israel is deeply grateful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire United States administration for their steadfast position supporting truth and justice, and calls upon all responsible countries who hope to advance peace to adopt a similar position. This is a complex political problem that can only be solved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization Saeb Erekat said Washington was seeking to replace worldwide law with what he described as 'law of the jungle, ' Palestine's Maan news agency quoted him as saying.

The Palestinians have long called for the removal of the settlements, where about 600,000 Jews live, arguing that their presence on land they claim for a future independent Palestinian state makes it nearly impossible to make such a state a reality.

From the first moment Trump stepped in the Oval Office he appointed a raft of aides with close ties to Israel and the settlement movement.

The policy U-turn repudiates one of Barack Obama's last presidential acts in not vetoing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which called the settlements a "flagrant violation" of worldwide law with "no legal validity".

"All settlement activity is illegal under global law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace", said the statement from the 28-nation bloc. It could delay peace for many years.

"Pompeo couldn't be more wrong", Wise said.

United States and Israeli flags decorate the road leading to the Israeli settlement of Bruchim-Kela Alon, in the Golan Heights, 14 June 2019.

At the same time, Pompeo said the new U.S. decision has no impact on determining the final status of the West Bank and should not be viewed as a political signal to anyone.

"The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration's approach towards Israeli settlements", Pompeo told reporters at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department on Monday. The Court thus maintained that the "west bank" which Israel liberated from Jordanian occupation in 1967 was prima facie a Palestinian territory. Places once viewed with skepticism, if not hostility, by other Israelis are now home to 450,000 Jewish settlers, up from 116,300 in 1993.

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