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Posted at: Nov 20, 2019, 7:17 AM; last updated: Nov 20, 2019, 7:19 AM (IST)

US reverses stance, says Israeli settlements legal

Palestinians condemn Trump administration, Israelis shower praise
US reverses stance, says Israeli settlements legal
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets heads of regional councils in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday. REUTERS

Washington/Jerusalem, Nov 19

In a major policy shift, the Trump administration has said that it no longer believes the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal, asserting that the previous opinion that such structures were inconsistent with international law has not helped the peace process in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement on Monday, drawing praise from Israelis and condemnation from the Palestinians. “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, the United States believes the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” he said.

According to the BBC, nearly 6,00,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the decision, saying “the US 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 (a term for the West Bank) are illegal under international law.”

The US decision was the latest of “unceasing attempts to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle,’” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

“The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements,” Pompeo told reporters.

In 1978, the (Jimmy) Carter administration categorically concluded that Israel’s establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. However, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan disagreed, stating that he did not believe that the settlements were inherently illegal. — PTI

It’s unlawful: UN 

Geneva: The UN human rights office said on Tuesday that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory remain in breach of international law, rejecting the Trump administration’s position that it now backed them. “We continue to follow the long-standing position of the UN that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing. Reuters

US’ new stance on west bank blow to peace process, says Russia

Moscow: Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that a US decision to effectively back Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank undermined the legal basis for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Russia condemned the change of policy, warning the move would escalate tensions in the region. Moscow’s stance is that such settlements on Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated. Reuters


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