The Trump administration is reversing the Obama policy on Israeli settlements in the so-called West Bank and the 1978 legal position that the settlements were a violation of international law:
AXIOS – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that the U.S. will no longer view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as “inconsistent with international law.”
This move is an important shift because it cancels a legal position held by the U.S. State Department since 1978, when the Carter administration determined that the settlements were a violation of international law.
On the other hand, the move is mostly symbolic and will have no practical implications. The Trump administration didn’t see the settlements as illegal and this decision today will simply make it a more formal position.
According to Barak Ravid, who wrote the article, this has been in discussion for months with the State Department leading the way:
A senior Israeli official told me Israel was consulted by the Trump administration on this issue several months ago. He said the U.S. wanted to know if this decision could harm Israel legally or internationally. Israel answered that it supports the move and that it will not harm the country in any way.
A U.S. official told me this decision was several months in the making and the State Department was leading the process. The official said the decision was supposed to be announced last week, but that it was postponed because of the escalation around Gaza.
Pompeo says the administration agrees with Reagan, not Obama:
Pompeo said in his remarks that the decision will reverse the Obama administration policy on settlements.
He stressed that unrestrained settlement activity could be an obstacle to a peace deal, but that it is not illegal.
“We agree with President Reagan that the settlements are not inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo added that legal questions about settlements should be addressed by the Israeli courts, not the international community, and that the U.S. decision is not an expression of any view on Israeli court decisions regarding settlements.
Netanyahu responded to the news on Twitter. I’ll paragraph it for you for ease of reading:
Today, the United States adopted an important policy that rights a historical wrong when the Trump administration clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law. This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea.
The Trump Administration policy is also correct in stating that those who have categorically denied any legal basis for the settlements not only deny truth, history and the reality on the ground, they also set back the cause of peace, which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.
Israel’s legal system, which has proven itself fully capable of addressing legal questions related to the settlements, is the appropriate place for these matters to be adjudicated – not biased international forums that pay no attention to history or facts. Israel remains ready and willing to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinians regarding all final status issues in an effort to achieve a durable peace but will continue to reject all arguments regarding the illegality of the settlements.
Israel is deeply grateful to President @realDonaldTrump, @SecPompeo and the entire US 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.
You can watch Pompeo’s remarks below announcing the new position: