Trump's 'shameless' decision to declare Israeli settlements 'legal' sparks global outrage

Trump's 'shameless' decision to declare Israeli settlements 'legal' sparks global outrage
The US decision to declare Israeli settlements legal has sparked anger in the Arab world and beyond.
4 min read
19 November, 2019
Palestinains face hardships in the face of the brutal Israeli occupation [Getty]
Arab countries condemned the US' announcement on Monday to declare Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as "legal",  a decision that has led to almost universal uproar.

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".

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheith condemned Pompeo's remarks, warning of a negative escalation as a result of the "unfortunate change" in Washington's policy.

Jordan Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, decried the US decision, saying settlements, banned by the fourth Geneva Convention, "kill the two-state solution".

"Entrenching the occupation and its injustice, and violating the resolutions of international legitimacy will not achieve peace, and will not guarantee security and stability," he said.

"Nothing changes the illegal reality of settlements that the international community is unanimous in condemning," he added, according to state media.

Read more: Senior PLO official damns Trump's decision to declare Israeli settlements 'legal'

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez, reaffirmed that the Cairo considers "settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal and inconsistent with international law".

'Invalid under international law'

Other countries and regional bodies across the world have condemned the controversial move.

The European Union lambasted Washington's change in policy, urging settlements are indeed illegal under international law and a threat to the two-state solution.

"The European Union's position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

"All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council resolution 2334," she added. 

Infographic: Click to enlarge

Mogherini also condemned Israel for building settlements to begin with, pressing them to halt settlement activity.

"The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power," she said.

"The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties."

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the declaration, saying the Trump administration’s decision "shall have no validity with respect to international law".

"No country is above international law," he added in a tweet.

China called on the US to revisit international law, urging Israeli settlements on Palestinian land is one of the most pressing issues to be solved for a lasting peace to come about.

"According to UN Security Council Resolution 2334, it is against the international law to establish settlements in the occupied territory of Palestine, including East Jerusalem," Beijing's foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

"In light of the severe situation between Palestine and Israel, China calls on the US to carry out its responsibilities, make constructive efforts and avoid escalating confrontation or further complicating this issue," he added.

Russia released a statement saying the latest decision will heighten tensions.

"We consider this Washington's decision as another step aimed at ruining an international legal basis of the Middle East settlement that will exacerbate tensions in Palestinian-Israeli relations," Moscow's foreign ministry said in a statement.

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 sparked global outrage  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".

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