In a major policy shift, the U.S. announced Monday that it considers Israeli settlements to be compatible with international law.
"The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration's approach toward Israeli settlements," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, referencing the preceding administration's abstention from a December 2016 vote in the U.N. Security Council that determined Israeli settlement activity was a "flagrant violation of international law."
Pompeo said that "we will no longer recognize Israeli settlements as per se inconsistent with international law," noting that this conclusion was "based on the unique facts, history, circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank."
The new policy means that the U.S. will consider Israeli settlements to be irrelevant to the legal aspects of the peace process, restoring the policy that had been first adopted by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. As such, the U.S. will view the settlements' future only through a political future, as determined by the two parties, rather than one that should be shaped through the courts.
According to Pompeo, "U.S. public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades. In 1978, the Carter Administration categorically concluded that Israel's establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. However, in 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that conclusion and stated that he didn't believe the settlements were inherently illegal."
He continued, "Subsequent administrations recognized that unrestrained settlement activity could be an obstacle to peace, but they wisely and prudently recognized that dwelling on legal positions didn't advance peace. However, in December 2016, the Obama Administration, through Secretary Kerry, changed decades of this careful, bipartisan approach by publicly re-affirming the supposed illegality of settlements. After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law."