Decision welcomed by Israel, condemned by Palestine

JERUSALEM • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement that the United States does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law is almost certain to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political fortunes should Israel be headed for a third round of elections this year.

Mr Netanyahu praised the decision and said it reflected "historical truth - that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria", a term for the West Bank.

He said Israeli courts were better suited to decide the legality of the settlements, "not biased international forums that pay no attention to history or facts".

His chief opponent, Mr Benny Gantz, politely welcomed the announcement, but said that the fate of West Bank settlements "should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and that can promote peace".

Palestinian officials, by now used to unwelcome policy shifts from Mr Trump, nonetheless summoned new outrage.

"We cannot express horror and shock because this is a pattern, but that doesn't make it any less horrific," said Mr Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestine Liberation Organisation official.

"It sends a clear signal that they have total disregard for international law, for what is right and just, and for the requirements of peace."

And Dr Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Trump administration's decision was the latest in "unceasing attempts to replace international law with the 'law of the jungle'".

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Ms Federica Mogherini, criticised the US policy shift and maintained that the settlements were illegal and eroded the chances for peace.

She called on Israel to "end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power".

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi of Jordan, which is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, said on Twitter that the settlements "kill two-state solution" efforts.

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that the US decision undermined the legal basis for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2019, with the headline 'Decision welcomed by Israel, condemned by Palestine'. Print Edition | Subscribe