The United States announced a reversal of its decades-long policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, calling the occupation not necessarily a violation of international law. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed that the US no longer agrees with the 1978 State Department legal opinion that held the occupied territories “inconsistent with international law”.
“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said.
“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” he added.
The move was welcomed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that US President Donald Trump has corrected a “historic injustice”. Netanyahu said that the decision does not prevent negotiations and on the contrary, “it advances peace because it is not possible to build true peace based on lies”. Opposition leader Benny Gantz applauded the statement of Pompeo saying the fate of the settlements should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and promote peace.
I spoke on the phone with US President Donald Trump and told him that he had corrected a historic injustice— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) November 18, 2019
Somebody needed to say a simple truth, and President Trump did this, just as he did with the recognition of the Golan Heights and the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem
It was another jolt to Palestinian quest for statehood after the Trump administration had decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. A spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the decision and said that the U.S. administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process.
In December 2016, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had adopted a resolution for the Israeli settlements in "Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem". The resolution called the Israeli settlement activity a "flagrant violation" of international law and had "no legal validity". It condemned all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem. The resolution reaffirmed that it was a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace”. While the resolution was passed in a 14-0 vote by the members of UNSC, the US had abstained from voting.