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Illegal Israeli settlements find U.S. support

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The U.S. and Israel refuse to adhere to international law by supporting settlements in the West Bank (screenshot via YouTube).

A U.S. policy shift on the Israel settlements in the Middle East leaves no room for a two-state solution.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement has already defied the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, delivering more support for the right-wing leader and long-time Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who failed twice to form a government in Israel during the last 12 months. This violation provides a new political umbrella for the Israeli government to continue confiscation of more Palestinian lands and building new Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Trump's motivations

Pompeo’s announcement responded to Netanyahu’s announced plans to annex parts of the West Bank last September. This policy, however, is a new and additional step from Trump’s Administration to entice Christian evangelical groups while his impeachment is out in public.

Pompeo has attempted to market his President Trump’s policy as “consistent with the international law”, however, he does not mention that this shift contradicts the legal opinion that had already guided U.S. policy since Jimmy Carter’s Presidency in 1978. Pompeo also deceived the media when mentioned that Reagan Administration considered the settlements were not “inherently illegal” but Pompeo did not say Reagan stated that settlements were an obstacle to peace.  

Trump’s Administration destroys the possibility for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine in the Middle East after Trump's decision to alter the position of the sacred sanctity of the Holy City of Jerusalem on December 2017 and ended humanitarian contributions to the United Nations Relief and Working Agency (UNRWA) and assistance to Palestinians in 2018.

However, the European Union (EU) has consistently spoken out against Israeli settlement expansion and continues supporting a future Palestine state. EU and the international community realises that Benjamin Netanyahu, is an obstacle for a negotiated peace compromise by imposing more challenges by building more settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

EU rejection of the settlements

The EU’s rejection of the major reversal of U.S. policy on settlement reaffirms the EU’s political position against Israeli settlements as stated by High Representative Federica Mogherini.

The EU’s reaffirmation has come after the top EU’s Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last week that:

'Products from Israeli settlements must be labelled ... [the settlements] give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that state outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.'

The ECJ’s ruling is strong evidence against Pompeo’s announcement that:

“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se, inconsistent with the international law”.

This decision reaffirms that settlements violate international law and human rights as Shane Stevenson, a director for the region at Oxfam says:

'The settlements are violating the rights and freedoms of Palestinians and further entrench poverty in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.'

Uncertain future

Today, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) lives through unprecedented political moments of uncertainty due to ongoing events in the region and the global politics after this shift or implementation of "deal of century" by the U.S. President, who provides endless support to the current Israeli Government.

However, the PNA Foreign Minister says:

“The PNA will sue US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s before the International Criminal Court (ICC).” 

It is an unrealistic to do so for a number of technical reasons if not more.

If politics and diplomacy will not solve this issue, a new cycle of violence likely will erupt as the humanitarian, economic and political circumstances are extremely dangerous in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as the people have already lost hope and live in full desperation.

What’s next?

The EU’s reaffirmation on the Israeli settlement is a commendable position but it will not alter the situation on the ground as long as the Israeli Government still believes it is above the international law. There is no effective power to enforce Israel to stop its illegal activities of building more settlements. This reaffirmation by EU should be followed by practical steps to recognise, at least, a Palestine State as Sweden has already done.

Israel has never listened or respected its EU partners or EU’s position in regard to the Palestine question.

The EU has no consensus over this issue yet, but at least it expected that some EU member states may take a strong and brave step as Sweden has done. The U.S. and Israel believe that they are above international law and behave accordingly.

In other words, UN resolutions have no clear mechanism to push Israel to make it changes its own illegal policies and respect the international law including the Palestine right of freedom and existence. Israel, however, benefits from the current circumstances in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and believes that it can maintain the status quo of occupation and settlement building.

Dr Ibrahim Natil is a lecturer at Dublin City University and a Fellow at Institute for International Conflict Resolution. He is a human rights campaigner. You can follow Dr Natil on Twitter @Natilibrahim.

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