Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement Monday afternoon, Nov. 18, “The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach toward Israeli settlements.”
By softening its stance on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Trump administration reversed four decades of American policy.
“U.S. public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades,” said Pompeo.
He told reporters at the State Department that the Israeli courts should resolve any legal questions on the settlements. He also stated that declaring the settlements as a violation of international law distracts efforts to negotiate a peace deal.
“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” said Pompeo.
“We recognize that Israeli courts have the legal conclusions related to individual citizen settlements must depend on an assessment of specific facts and circumstances on the ground,” stated the U.S. secretary of state.
“Therefore, the United States government is expressing no view on the legal status of any individual settlement,” Pompeo added.
Pompeo said that the “Israeli legal system affords an opportunity to challenge settlement activity and assess humanitarian considerations connected to it.” He also stated that the “Israeli courts have confirmed the legality of certain settlement activities” and “concluded that others cannot be legally sustained.”
The policy shift angered Palestinians and placed the United States at odds with countries endeavoring to resolve the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Some critics stated that the latest series of moves would undermine and weaken Palestinian’s claims to statehood.
While Israeli leaders welcomed the decision, Palestinians and other nations cautioned that the U.S.’s decision would undermine any chance for a peace agreement.
Pompeo, however, stated that the Trump administration is “not addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank.”
Instead, the U.S. secretary of state said, “This is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate.”
“International law does not compel a particular outcome nor create any legal obstacle to a negotiated resolution,” stated Pompeo, who continued that the United States “will no longer recognize Israeli settlements, as per se, inconsistent with international law.”
“Calling the establishing of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace,” continued Pompeo.
“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict,” Pompeo stated. He added that disputes about “who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”
He asserted that the situation is a “complex political problem that can only be solved” by negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.
“The United States encourages the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in any final status negotiations,” said Pompeo during the press conference.
He assured that the United States would stay “deeply committed to helping facilitate peace” and “encourage both sides to find a solution that promotes, protects the security and welfare of Palestinians and Israelis alike.”
“I will do everything I can to help this cause,” said Pompeo.
He reiterated the Trump administration’s position and “declared that settlements are not, per se, illegal under international law” and that the U.S. provides the “space for Israel and the Palestinians to come together to find a political solution.”