U.S. Reverses Course on Israeli Settlements

An earthquake in Middle East politics occurred two weeks ago: the United States declared that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land “are not inconsistent with international law.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the change, explaining, “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace.” Pompeo also 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.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

More Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s interim prime minister, has been pushing for the change for months says one report. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Israeli right-wing leaders praised the decision. New Right co-leader Ayelet Shaked said the move was “an important and significant decision. Indeed, better late than never. The settlements in Judea and Samaria do not contradict international law and it’s good that the largest power in the world is saying the truth and fixing a long injustice.” Palestinian leaders did not react favorably. Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called it “an act of aggression against the Palestinian people.” Yousel explained, “UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is very clear that settlements are illegal and illegitimate and the State Department’s decision will not change that.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

In response to the announcement, Palestinians held a “Day of Rage” protest in the West Bank on November 26 against the change in U.S. policy. The protest was organized by the Fatah party. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Senior Israeli officials and settler groups, however, are urging the Israeli government to take action to annex the settlements into Israel proper. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to pass legislation annexing the Jordan Valley if a unity government is formed. The Jordan Valley makes up about a quarter of the West Bank. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

More than 100 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Pompeo urging him “to reverse this policy decision immediately.” The letter also expressed “strong disagreement” with the policy change, saying that by “ignoring international law, this administration has undermined America’s moral standing and sent a dangerous message to those who do not share our values: human rights and international law, which have governed the international order and protected U.S. troops and civilians since 1949, no longer apply.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

After the announcement, the U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a warning, advising  “U.S. citizens in or considering travel to or through Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness in light of the current environment.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Finally, Israeli officials have presented a plan to the Trump administration to develop as many as 24 major Biblical sites for evangelical tourism. The plan is reported to be at the request of the Israeli prime minister and was presented by Likud MK Nir Barkat. The plan also involves annexing part of Area C. Reported by Breaking Israel News. Read more… (Ed. note: although not related to the State Department announcement, the policy change helps further open the door to annexation. Area C comprises about 61% of West Bank territory.).