History was made on Monday evening when US Defence Secretary Mike Pompeo made the historic announcement that the US refutes the concept of the illegality of the settlements – otherwise known as Jewish homes and factories in Judaea and Samaria.
He said that this was not an issue of international law at all, but an internal Israeli legal issue. He also listed the times that the US changed and rechanged its position on the settlements,
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the American government does not consider Jewish communities in Judaea and Samaria to be in violation of international law.
Addressing reporters at a press conference Monday, Pompeo said: “The Trump Administration is reversing the Obama Administration’s towards Israeli settlements. US public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades.”
“In 1978, the Carter Administration categorically concluded that Israel’s establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. However, in 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that conclusion and stated that he didn’t believe that the settlements were inherently illegal. Subsequent administrations recognized that unrestrained settlement activity could be an obstacle to peace, but they wisely and prudently recognized that dwelling on legal positions didn’t advance peace,” Pompeo explained.
He accused former US Secretary of State John Kerry of changing “decades of this careful, bipartisan approach by publicly reaffirming the supposed illegality of settlements” in December 2016, at the end of the Obama Administration.
“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan,” Pompeo declared. “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
He further stated that the Trump Administration recognized the authority of Israeli courts on the legality of specific Israeli communities in Judaea and Samaria.
He added: “We are not addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank. This is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate. International law does not compel a particular outcome nor create any legal obstacle to a negotiated resolution.”
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Behind the scenes of this historic announcement, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely confirmed that there had been ample preparation:
On moves that preceded the U.S. announcement, she says there were indeed talks that prepared the ground for it: “When David Friedman took office as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, we had an in-depth conversation and I asked about prospects for an historic change in Jewish settlement in Judaea and Samaria policy, and he said it should be done in steps. The first phase is Jerusalem and the change will come later.”
“There were a lot of talks, by Dermer, myself, by the Prime Minister, and political activity at ambassador level. We pushed for it to be our legacy to lead a change in relation to settlements and the lie of the ‘occupation’. We saw this happen step by step, first, in a statement by the State Department that the settlements were not an obstacle to peace, then that the U.S. ambassador came to events across the Green Line as opposed to his predecessors, then the attitude toward Jerusalem and moving the embassy and there was progress in these directions, they no longer used the term ‘occupation’ and terminology changed. Even in the Deal of the Century, it’s clear that Jewish settlements will remain in place.”
Hotovely emphasized in her remarks that “David Friedman played an important role during this time. He is an ideological player who came on a very sympathetic U.S. government mission and had a significant contribution in this regard and should be commended for it.”
Hotovely dismissed the anger of the Palestinians at the announcement, saying that they had rejected President Trump from the moment he became president:
“This isn’t about the recent declaration. From the moment Trump began his tenure the Palestinians boycotted him and considered him pro-Israeli. Those who think the problem of the Palestinians is the identity of the ruling party in the United States should be reminded that the big explosion was in the Obama and Kerry era, the most positive era for them when they didn’t allow Jews to build even one brick in Judaea and Samaria. Even then, they didn’t deign to come and talk, so they can’t come with clean hands. They’re serially contumacious.”
According to former “peace processors”, the announcement is “the logical next step of the Trump administration’s efforts to reframe the basis on which Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations take place”, although they think the timing is connected to Israel’s political shambles:
Previous policy decisions have had a similar effect: from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv to withholding funding from the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees and seeking to redefine eligibility for refugee status.
“The administration has gone about dismantling the core elements that have constituted a traditional approach to a two-state solution,” said Aaron David Miller, a State Department veteran who worked under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The latest move “fits within the broader context of what the administration has been involved in,” he said.
But the timing of the announcement — two days before Blue and White chief Benny Gantz must form a government or see Israel face new elections — adds another dimension.
It seems, at least in part, designed to bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he faces one of the toughest political battles of his life.
“I tend to think this was in the works for a while, and this was something that Netanyahu wanted credit for,” said David Makovsky, a special envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during the Obama administration. “He sees this as kind of unfinished business from his tenure. I think it’s related to that and I tend to think there was a mind meld between Netanyahu and Ambassador David Friedman.”
The leftists, and those committed to the dead-horse “two state solution” are of course dismayed at the implications of the announcement. Maybe they should have urged the Palestinians to accept the deals offered to them at Camp David and Oslo.
Meanwhile despite the US urging that this declaration is not a green light to expand settlements, Binyamin Netanyahu approved the advancing of a bill that will annex the Jordan Valley settlements:
Likud MK Sharren Haskel proposed the annexation bill weeks ago, but decided to fast-track it in light of the change in US policy.
“The bill has the prime minister’s full backing,” Haskel said.
In the days before the September 17 election, Netanyahu announced that if re-elected, he would annex the Jordan Valley, and his cabinet voted to legalize the Mevo’ot Yeriho outpost in the Jordan Valley as a new settlement.
Haskel submitted a request to exempt her bill to annex the Jordan Valley from the mandatory six-week waiting period for any new legislation so that it can go to a vote in the plenum next week. The request will be subject to a vote in the Knesset Arrangements Committee, led by Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn while his party’s leader Benny Gantz has the mandate to build a government.
Haskel called on Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor-Gesher to join the Likud’s efforts to annex the Jordan Valley, “in light of the one-time-only chance that we have before us” with US President Donald Trump’s administration.
Let’s see if our egotistic politicians, on both sides of the plenum, can get over their egos and make use of this historic opportunity to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jewish communities in the Jordan Valley, before it’s too late. And while they’re at it, they should do the same for every single community in Judaea and Samaria too.
As the Elder of Ziyon noted on Twitter:
“Insisting that Judaea and Samaria must be Judenrein is the real bigotry”.
Not to mention the real apartheid.