Pompeo: Israeli Settlements in West Bank Don’t Violate International Law

Comments reverse US position from back in 1978

In a move seen as a further blow to Palestinian hopes for statehood, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the US is repudiating the 1978 State Department legal opinion that the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine are in violation of international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention is very clear about settlements being illegal, as it explicitly bars an occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into occupied territory.

Pompeo’s position is that the US stance on West Bank settlements is based on “unique facts.” While not necessarily trying to reinterpret international law, the State Department will now argue that international law doesn’t advance the cause of peace and therefore should be ignored.

Instead, Pompeo will argue that any legal questions on Israel building settlements in occupied Palestine should be handled within Israeli courts. He added that he did not intend to prejudge the status of the Wes Bank in any peace deal.

This position further encourages the Israeli government to take steps to make the occupation permanent, secure in the knowledge that the US government is prepared to ignore international law. It also seemingly encourages them to block Palestinian statehood to allow for more settlements in the future.

In bolstering the Israeli far-right’s annexation position, the new US stance is likely intended to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a time when his survival as premier is in doubt. Trump has expressed a preference for Netanyahu.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.