Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Yad Vashem, March 21, 2019.

According to an Associated Press report Monday (AP Exclusive: US softens position on Israeli settlements), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing to renounce a 1978 opinion written by the legal adviser of the Department of State Herbert J. Hansel (during the Carter administration), that said Jewish civilian settlements in the disputed territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

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The International Court of Justice in 2010 ruled that Israel is in breach of international law by establishing settlements in “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” including eastern Jerusalem. The Court thus maintained that the “West Bank” which Israel liberated from Jordanian occupation in 1967 was prima facie a Palestinian territory.

It was a bizarre ruling that willfully ignored the fact that:

a) Jordan was not entitled to the territory, which it acquired by force after the expiration of the British Mandate in Palestine in 1948;

b) there was no recognition of a Palestinian entity in 1948, and certainly no designation of that territory to such an entity;

c) Israel’s right to the same territory is as valid or invalid as Jordan’s, seeing as on May 14, 1948 it became a ‘no man’s land.’

According to the AP, Pompeo’s draft reads that:

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace. 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.”

There are an estimated 700,000 Jews living in the settlements and in eastern Jerusalem. The Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria live in Area C, which was designated by the 1994 Oslo Accords to remain under full Israeli control. Before the September elections, Netanyahu promised to annex some of this territory, in the Jordan Valley. There are also plans to impose Israeli laws in the rest of the settlements, most likely in the settlement blocs.

Positive reactions to the declaration quickly followed.

Prime Minister Netanyahu released the following statement:

Today, the United States adopted an important policy that rights a historical wrong when the Trump administration clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law.

This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria.   In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea.

 The Trump Administration policy is also correct in stating that those who have categorically denied any legal basis for the settlements not only deny truth, history and the reality on the ground, they also set back the cause of peace, which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.

 Israel’s legal system, which has proven itself fully capable of addressing legal questions related to the settlements, is the appropriate place for these matters to be adjudicated – not biased international forums that pay no attention to history or facts.

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 but will continue to reject all arguments regarding the illegality of the settlements.

 Israel is deeply grateful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire US administration for their steadfast position supporting truth and justice, and calls upon all responsible countries who hope to advance peace to adopt a similar position.

Nadia Matar, who heads the Sovereignty movement wrote:

The Sovereignty movement welcomes the US president’s declaration that settlement in Judea and Samaria does not violate international law.

“The words of the American President faithfully express the historical truth and international law which states that Judea and Samaria are part of the territory designated for the establishment of a Jewish home for the Jewish people. President Trump continues in his consistent way, standing alongside Israel and alongside justice and truth. “

Leaders of the Movement, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar: “The sovereignty process continues to progress step by step as a just and moral act  that will create regional stability and security.

The Trump era is a historic opportunity for the Israeli government to promote its Zionist goals on to its historical mission”.

Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman welcomed the move saying:

“The free world decided at one time that a conquering state could not settle its civilian population on land that it acquired during times of war.

This ruling thereby unjustifiably criminalized the Jewish communities and residents of Hebron, Kfar Etzion, Beit El and Ma’ale Adumim, along with the rest of the communities in Judea and Samaria.

This was a delusional and outrageous assertion, as we did not conquer neighboring foreign lands, but rather placed parts of our own country back under our control. And now the United States took another step towards truth and justice and brought us closer to the reality in which the State of Israel won’t just rule over Judea and Samaria but will become the sole land owners of these areas – under full sovereignty.

We bless the government of Israel headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, whereas the “left” remains full of hysteria, Netanyahu continues to make history.”

International Law expert Eugene Kontorovich listed this move as one of the five steps he recommended to counter President Obama’s UN anti-Israel Resolution 2334.

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