Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements to be contrary to international law

These occupations of Palestinian territories are considered illegal by the UN and a large part of the international community, which sees them as a major obstacle to peace.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference in Washington on November 18. Andrew Harnik / AP

The United States no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be contrary to international law, the head of the American diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, announced Monday, November 18. These occupations of Palestinian territories are considered illegal by the United Nations (UN) and a large part of the international community, which sees them as a major obstacle to peace.

"After careful consideration of all the arguments in this legal debate, (we conclude that) settlements of Israeli civilians in the West Bank are not per se contrary to international law"said Mr Pompeo on Monday at a press conference in Washington. So far, American policy has been based, at least theoretically, on a 1978 State Department legal opinion that "Establishing settlements in these territories" was "Not in accordance with international law". Mike Pompeo therefore decided that this opinion was obsolete. "The truth is that there will never be a judicial solution to the conflict and that debates about who is right and who is wrong under international law will not bring peace."he said, assuring that it was neither an interference in Israeli politics nor a green light for colonization.

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Helping Netanyahu

At a time when Israeli parties are engaged in difficult negotiations to form a new government, this decision can be interpreted as a boost to outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. The latter proposed during the last election campaign to annex part of the settlements of the occupied West Bank. On Monday, Netanyahu also praised Washington's position, considering that it "Is a reflection of a historical truth – that Jews are not foreign colonizers in Judea and Samaria". "In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea", he said.

For his part, Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Roudein said Washington is not "Not qualified or authorized to annul provisions of international law and has no right to legalize Israeli settlements". The European Union, for its part, has reaffirmed its condemnation of the Israeli settlement policy. "The position of the European Union on the Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchangedsaid the head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini in a statement. All settlement activity is illegal under international law and undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for lasting peace, as reaffirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 2334. " Brussels is asking Israel "To put an end to all settlement activity, in accordance with its obligations as occupying Power".

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In recent years, colonization has accelerated under the leadership of Mr. Netanyahu and his American ally. US President Donald Trump has shifted his regional policy in favor of Israel, unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital and annexing the Syrian Golan by the Jewish state, while cutting funds for the Palestinians. The US ambassador to Jerusalem, David Friedman, went so far as to say that Israel had " the right " to annex " a part " occupied West Bank. Mike Pompeo had refused in April to say whether Washington would oppose a possible annexation of settlements in the West Bank by the Jewish state.

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