AMP condemns Trump administration’s new position on Israeli settlements

November 18, 2019

(WASHINGTON, D.C. 11/18/2019)—American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) condemns in the strongest terms today’s announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States now no longer considers Israel’s settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “inconsistent with international law”. 

AMP reaffirms that Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which both the United States and Israel are signatories, states clearly that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Furthermore, the charter of the International Criminal Court makes this illegal colonization of Occupied Territory a “war crime”.

Ever since Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, the United States has officially opposed Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements there; however, this often rhetorical opposition to Israeli settlements rarely translated into a reduction in US unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel. 

Pompeo’s announcement today overturns a legal opinion by the State Department issued in 1978, which determined that “while Israel may undertake, in the occupied territories, actions necessary to meet its military needs and to provide for orderly government during the occupation, for reasons indicated above the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories is inconsistent with international law."

In justifying the overturning of this legal opinion, Pompeo cited policy statements by President Reagan that settlements are not inherently illegal. What Pompeo failed to mention in his justification is that Reagan’s statements were not legal opinions. Pompeo’s statement is significant because, for the first time, the United States is invalidating its own legal statement on Israeli settlements. 

Pompeo’s announcement is also problematic in other respects. For example, Pompeo deferred to Israeli courts to adjudicate the legality of settlements. Notwithstanding these courts sometimes agreeing to move certain Israeli settlement outposts, Israel’s judicial system has often worked hand in glove to promote Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian land. 

Pompeo also announced that this move by the United States would not prejudge final status issues between Israel and Palestinians. However, like the Trump administration’s similar false claims regarding moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, today’s announcement does indeed prejudice Palestinian claims by firmly siding with Israeli positions. 

In response to this announcement, AMP Executive Director, Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, stated, "This is another callous measure by this administration to unilaterally take Palestinian rights “off the table” in negotiations with Israel. First, it was Jerusalem then the right of return, and now what is left of Palestinian land in the West Bank. What Trump and his administration fail to understand is that Palestinian inalienable rights, which are stipulated in international law and UN binding resolutions, will never vanish and go away by the mere fact of their bias in favor of Israel. Their attempts to liquidate Palestinian rights will achieve nothing but more bloodshed in the holy land and will delay peace if not kill it once and for all. This administration has not only contravened decades of U.S. foreign policy and demonstrated a total disregard for the plight of Palestinians, but it has also embraced the role of being a conduit for the policies of the right-wing government in Israel."      

The Trump administration’s decision regarding Israeli settlements is yet another in a long line of policy statements deeply harmful to the Palestinian people and their rights and the cause of a just peace.