US Condemns Israeli Settlements as Illegal, Reversing Trump’s Policy

The Biden administration has announced that it considers Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to be illegal under international law, reversing a controversial decision by the Trump administration in 2019.

The US decision came as a response to reports that the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was planning to approve more than 3,000 new housing units in the settlements, despite international criticism and opposition from the Palestinians.

A US official told Axios that the decision to reverse the so-called “Pompeo doctrine” was made after consultations with the State Department’s legal adviser and other experts. The official said that the US position on the settlements was consistent with previous Democratic and Republican administrations, and that the Trump administration’s decision was “inconsistent” and “unhelpful” to the peace process.

The official also said that the US decision was not intended to pressure Israel or to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather to reaffirm the US commitment to a two-state solution and to international law.

A Sharp Criticism from Israel and Praise from the Palestinians

The Israeli government reacted angrily to the US decision, calling it a “mistake” and a “betrayal” of the US-Israeli alliance. Netanyahu said that the settlements were “an integral part of the land of Israel” and that they had “legal, historical, and moral rights” to exist.

Netanyahu also accused the Biden administration of “giving a prize to the Palestinian terrorists” who had recently killed an Israeli near the Maale Adumim settlement. He said that the US decision would only encourage more violence and extremism, and that it would undermine the prospects for peace and security in the region.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, welcomed the US decision, calling it a “positive step” and a “return to the international consensus”. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said that the US decision was a “recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people” and a “correction of a grave error” by the Trump administration.

Maliki also urged the US to take further actions to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and human rights, and to support the Palestinian quest for statehood and sovereignty.

A Sign of a Changing US-Israeli Relationship

The US decision on the settlements is the latest sign of a changing relationship between the US and Israel under the Biden administration. The two allies have already clashed over several issues, such as the Iran nuclear deal, the Gaza war, and the human rights situation in Israel and the occupied territories.

The Biden administration has also expressed its support for reopening the US consulate in East Jerusalem, which was closed by the Trump administration in 2019 and merged with the US embassy in West Jerusalem. The consulate had served as the main channel of communication between the US and the Palestinians, and its reopening would be seen as a gesture of goodwill and engagement by the US.

However, the Biden administration has also reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and its right to defend itself against any threats. The US has also pledged to continue its military and economic aid to Israel, and to oppose any attempts to isolate or delegitimize Israel in international forums.

The US decision on the settlements is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the ground, as the Israeli government is expected to proceed with its plans for settlement expansion, and the Palestinians are expected to continue their resistance and protests. However, the decision could have a long-term effect on the future of the peace process and the prospects for a two-state solution, which both sides claim to support but have failed to achieve.

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