The U.S. Middle East peace plan may be in a coma. But that hasn’t stopped Washington from handing major diplomatic victories to Israel.
By Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer | Foreign Policy | Nov 18, 2019
‘You now have a complete package of efforts to make a traditional solution . . . to the Israeli-Palestinian problem virtually impossible, at least for the remainder of the Trump administration.’
— Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar Aaron David Miller
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Monday that the United States no longer considers civilian Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands a violation of international law. The move represents a historic decision that reverses decades of U.S. policy and represents the latest in a raft of pro-Israeli moves that could effectively quash hopes for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The conclusion that we will no longer recognize as per se inconsistent with international law is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances prevented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank,” Pompeo told reporters on Monday. He said that the decision does not mean the U.S. government is expressing views on the legal status of any individual settlement or “prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank.”
Pompeo’s statement rolls back a 1978 State Department opinion that formed the bedrock of U.S. legal opinion on Israeli settlements, asserting that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”
The decision marks the latest way in which the Trump administration has undercut Palestinian claims of statehood in favor of its closest historic ally in the Middle East, handing another political victory to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he struggles to stay afloat after failing to form a coalition government.
During his first three years as president, Donald Trump has moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, forced the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington to close, and slashed funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian relief. Separately, it recognized Israeli sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights, undoing a position past administrations had held for over 50 years.