By Karen DeYoung, Steve Hendrix and John Hudson, The Washington Post—-
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the Trump administration had determined that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law, a decision he said had “increased the likelihood” of a Middle East peace settlement.
Pompeo said the Trump administration, as it did with recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, had simply “recognized the reality on the ground.”
The move upends more than 40 years of U.S. policy that has declared Israeli expansion into territories occupied since the 1967 war a major obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In response to a question, Pompeo denied that the announcement was connected to turmoil in Israel in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has supported the Israeli annexation of West Bank territory, is fighting for his political life.
“The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere,” he said. “We conducted our review, and this was the appropriate time to bring it forward.”
More than 700,000 settlers have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war. Both areas are claimed by Palestinians for a future state.
Since Israel first occupied the territories, only the Carter administration, based on a 1978 State Department legal opinion, has outright declared settlements illegal, although all administrations since then have described them as an impediment to peace and have called for freezing settlement expansion and new construction. Continue Reading….