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AFP
November 20, 2019

In new pro-Israel shift, US no longer calls settlements illegal

World

AFP
November 20, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States no longer believes that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Tuesday in the latest pro-Israel shift by Washington.

The statement puts the United States at odds with virtually all countries as well as UN Security Council resolutions and was hailed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of President Donald Trump who is days away from potentially losing office.

"After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate," Pompeo told reporters, the United States has concluded that "the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law."

"Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace," Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that the United States was not necessarily considering the settlements legal either but instead would defer to the judgment of Israeli courts.

The Palestinian Authority -- which has refused negotiations through the Trump administration, which it considers biased -- denounced the latest decision.

Washington is "not qualified or authorised to cancel the resolutions of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement," Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said in a statement.

But Netanyahu said that the US shift "rights a historical wrong" for the 600,000 Israeli settlers who live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.

"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," he said in a statement, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

The move will surely be interpreted as a boost for Netanyahu as his centrist rival, Benny Gantz, has only two days to form a government after inconclusive elections.

Pompeo denied a motivation to prop up Netanyahu, saying: "The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere in Israel or otherwise."

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