The real beneficiary of US recognition of the settlements is not Israel

Israeli soldiers overlooking East Jerusalem. (photo: Getty Images)
It’s not clear what benefit America derives from this move, but Russia’s occupation of Crimea gains immediate legitimacy.

By Alex Zeldin | Forward | Nov 18, 2019

Whether the move is a correct reading of international law or not, it’s not clear what American national interest is advanced by claiming Israeli West Bank settlements are legal.

Most days, you could be forgiven for not paying attention to shifts in diplomatic policy stances. But on Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a policy change with potentially far reaching implications. He announced that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”

The announcement will shift little on the ground. Its effect is more rhetorical than practical. But the primary beneficiary of this rhetorical flourish is not Israel but another country entirely: Russia. And the real loser is not just the Palestinians but America.

To most Israelis, this announcement is, like recognition of the Golan and of Jerusalem as the capitol, just reaffirming what they already knew; after all, successive Israeli governments, including those led by the Labor party, have been authorizing settlements in the West Bank since the aftermath of the Six Day War. . . .

Among the parties to the conflict then the significance of this policy shift is not immediately for Israelis, but for Palestinians, who have now witnessed repeated cuts in aid including for vital supplies such as food, over the objections of Israel’s security establishment. This step makes cooperating with the Trump administration an evermore unlikely effort: How can the Palestinian Authority rely on its American counterparts when their official position is that Israeli settlements are legal, a position that encourages further settlement activity?

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