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US reverses Trump-era policy on Israeli settlement expansion

The Biden administration on Friday said Israel’s plans to advance construction on thousands of settlement homes in the West Bank were inconsistent with international law, reversing a major Trump administration policy from 2019. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from the G20 meeting in Brazil, spoke out against Israeli plans to move forward on the construction of 3,000 settlement units.

The secretary’s statement effectively reverses the 2019 “Pompeo doctrine,” a policy shift announced by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that declared Israeli settlements as “per se” not inconsistent with international law.

Pompeo’s move allowed the U.S. to engage diplomatically and economically with Israeli communities in the West Bank that are under Israeli control, although their sovereignty is not recognized by the broader international community. The majority of the international community says the final borders of that territory should be decided in negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state.  

John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, said the administration’s view that settlements are inconsistent with international law was a continuation of long-standing U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administrations, describing the Trump policy as an aberration. 

This isn’t about the previous administration. We are simply reaffirming the fundamental conclusion that these settlements are inconsistent with international law,” Kirby said. 

“That is a position that’s been consistent over a range of Republican and Democratic administrations. If there’s an administration that’s been inconsistent, it was the previous one.”

Kirby said the administration is “disappointed” in the Israeli announcement on settlements, which the U.S. views as harming efforts to achieve a two-state solution and establishing a Palestinian state.

The administration’s reaction marks another point of tension with the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even as President Biden has held firm in supporting Israel as it prosecutes a war against Hamas in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack. 

The administration, while holding back on calling for Israel to implement a cease-fire, has increasingly criticized in public Israel’s conduct in the war. It has most recently warned Israel against invading Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have fled from the war, without a plan for evacuating the area.

Biden has also taken unprecedented steps by imposing sanctions on Israelis determined to be carrying out violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. 

But the administration’s criticisms, concerns and actions don’t appear to be influencing Netanyahu’s decision-making. 

This includes Netanyahu’s public rejections of a Palestinian state, pushback on negotiations for a temporary ceasefire with Hamas to release Israeli hostages held in Gaza, holding back food deliveries in Israeli ports from being transferred to Gaza, and expanding settlements in the West Bank. 

Kirby, in a briefing with reporters, pushed back on questions over the limits of the administration’s influence.  

“I reject the premise we’re talking to a brick wall. We’re talking to a friend and a friend is not going to agree with everything you have to say,” he said.  

Source: The Hill

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