Reversing four decades of American policy and further undermining the Palestinians’ effort to gain statehood, the Trump administration on November 18 said it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be a violation of international law. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. is repudiating the 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are not consistent with international law. Israeli leaders have welcomed the decision while Palestinians and other nations warned that it undercut any chance of a broader peace deal. As a justification for reversing their decades long stand which was underlined in many UN resolutions, Pompeo told reporters at the State Department that the Trump administration believes any legal questions about settlements should be resolved by Israeli courts and that declaring them a violation of international law distracts from larger efforts to negotiate a peace deal.
This change reflects the administration’s embrace of a hard-line Israeli view at the expense of the Palestinian quest for statehood. Similar actions have included President Donald Trump decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.
Condemning this US action, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that with this change of stand the U.S. administration cannot play any future role in the peace process, said The European Union warned of the potential repercussions in a statement following the announcement. It stated that all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace. The EU called on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power.
If it is the covert support from the consecutive US presidents which emboldened Israel to encroach upon West Bank, almost fully covering with illegal settlements, present announcement is intended to give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after failing to form a coalition government following recent elections. It could also spell further trouble for all peace plans. This Trump move has come when the Netanyahu government was dealt a blow on settlements just last week when the European Court of Justice ruled products made in Israeli settlements must be labeled as illegal.
The 1978 legal opinion on settlements is known as the Hansell Memorandum. It had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded U.S. opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength, depending on the president’s position. The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory. Today, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state. After the war, it immediately annexed east Jerusalem, home to the holy city most important religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized. Meanwhile Israel went on covering the West Bank the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts. Claiming the fate of the settlements is a subject for negotiations, it has steadily expanded them. Some major settlements have over 30,000 residents, resembling small cities and serving as suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. These settlements undermine undermines the possibility for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians. Israel settlement activities have also drawn attention to its treatment of Palestinians. While Jewish settlers can freely enter Israel and vote in Israeli elections, West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, require permits to enter Israel and do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections.
What Trump administration has done is an open support to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.. CPI (ML) Red Star condemns this arch reactionary act of Trump administration. We support the struggle of Palestinian people for their statehood and oppose the barbaric policies of the fascist Israeli regime against Palestinian people.
CPI(ML) Red Star