Senior PLO official damns Trump's decision to declare Israeli settlements 'legal'
A senior member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization blasted a controversial decision by the US on Monday to declare Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as "legal", saying that Washington has no right to "rewrite international law".
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday evening the unprecedented change in policy, in which he said "the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law".
Hanan Ashrawi lashed out at the major US policy change - which flies in the face of international law - saying it is yet another blow to legitimate Palestinian rights for freedom.
"The announcement made by US Secretary of State has no legal validity," she said, adding "the US neither has the right nor agency to rewrite international law and deface the rules-based international order based on its perverse ideological leanings".
Pompeo's announcement "reaffirms Palestine's assessment that the Trump administration is a threat to international peace and security because it is a partner in Israeli crimes and provides political cover for its pervasive violations," she said.
"This administration is a threat the international community must confront with consistency and moral clarity."
Ashrawi affirmed the illegal status of Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank: "Israeli settlements are a grave violation of international law, including international humanitarian law. They also constitute a war crime according to the Rome Statute. These are solid facts that the Trump administration cannot alter or unravel".
She said the Palestinian Authority "will continue to pursue justice and redress through all available legal and political avenues. Palestine remains solidly committed to international law and at the forefront of defending the values and principles for which it stands. It is time for responsible states to take collective action that rises to the level of threat this administration's lawlessness presents to the world".
The Trump administration is notorious for siding with Israel with major foreign policy shifts that often go against international law.
Ahead of Israel's first election of 2019 in April, Trump has recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
In later 2017, Trump caused outrage across the world after recognising the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital city.
Half-a-century of illegal occupation
Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.
More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.
The Oslo agreement of 1995 divided the occupied West Bank into three: Area A, Area B and Area C.
Area A is under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area B's administration is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, with Israel controlling security. Area C is under full administrative and security control of Israel.
Along with stealing land, Israeli soldiers and settlers routinely harass Palestinians in the occupied territories in various ways.
Israeli forces and settlers routinely harass Palestinians in the occupied territories through harming and killing civilians, demolishing homes, poisoning livestock, vandalising property and other forms of violence.
Israel often forces Palestinians to demolish their own homes under the pretext of not having a building permits.
Applications for building permits often take years to be processed, giving Israeli courts a loophole to increase Palestinian home demolitions by branding structures as "illegal".