US Democrats slam White House 'endorsement' of illegal Israeli settlements

US Democrats slam White House 'endorsement' of illegal Israeli settlements
More than 100 Democrats said the move 'endangered security' and 'damaged' the US' moral standing.
2 min read
23 November, 2019
Israeli settlements are nearly universally acknowledged as illegal under international law [Getty]
More than 100 Democrats have slammed the recent move by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to unilaterally declare Israeli settlements as legal under international law.

In a letter to Pompeo, 106 Democratic representatives in Congress wrote that the controversial decision "severely damaged prospects for peace".

Pompeo announced the move earlier this week, stating that "the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law".

"Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn't worked. It hasn't advanced the cause of peace," he said.

US policy was previously based, at least in theory, on a legal opinion issued by the State Department in 1978 which said that establishing of settlements in the Palestinian territories captured a decade earlier by Israel went against international law.

Read more: Pompeo casts international law aside on Israeli settlement policy

The Fourth Geneva Convention on the laws of war explicitly forbids moving civilians into occupied territories.

"The State Department's unilateral reversal on the status of settlements, without any clear legal justification, therefore has offered a tacit endorsement of settlements, their expansion, and associated demolitions of Palestinian homes," the Democrat lawmakers wrote on Friday.

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They added that the move, alongside others made by the Trump administration, had discredited the US as an "honest broker" in peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis and "endangered the security of America, Israel, and the Palestinian people".

The US president has been widely condemned for previous shifts in the country's policy towards Israel, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognising Tel Aviv's annexation of the occupied Golan Heights.

The letter, organised by Michigan Democrat Andy Levin, was signed by several prominent members of Congress, including firebrand Somali-American Democrat Ilhan Omar and Palestinian-American Democrat Rashida Tlaib.

Tlaib and Omar - known as members of the "Squad" alongside representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley - have been outspoken in their support of Palestinians since taking office last year.

Levin slammed Israel for its treatment of Palestinians earlier this week after visiting the occupied West Bank, pointing to Israeli military home demolitions and refusal to provide clean water access to the village of Susya.

"In ignoring international law, this administration has undermined America's moral standing and sent a dangerous message to those who do not share our values: human rights and international law, which have governed the international order and protected US troops and civilians since 1949, no longer apply," the letter reads.

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