On Monday, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the United States was changing its policy on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, stating: “We will no longer recognise Israeli settlements as per se inconsistent with international law”.
The US declaration marks a reversal of the State Department’s position that previously described settlements as inconsistent with international law since 1978.
Mr Pompeo explained the policy shift, stating that the US approach until now “has not advanced the cause of peace” and “there will never be judicial resolution to the conflict”.
Mr Pompeo went on to highlight that the “complex political problem” in the Middle East meant that Israeli courts, paired with discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, should determine the status of individual settlements in the West Bank based on their “specific facts and circumstances on the ground”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision “rights a historical wrong”, adding that “Israel remains ready and willing to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinians regarding all final status issues in an effort to achieve a durable peace”.
The leader of the Joint List, a political alliance of the main Arab-majority political parties in Israel, Ayman Odeh, condemned the decision.
The Israeli government maintains that settlements are consistent with international law because it does not agree that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the West Bank and Gaza, which have never constituted a sovereign state.
The UK Government last night released a statement urging Israel to halt its “counterproductive” settlement expansion. The statement added: “They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution”.