Trump’s New Policy on Israeli Settlements Is Illegal and Self-Serving

Thumbing his nose at the Geneva Convention, the Rome Statute, the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice, Donald Trump decided that Israel’s unlawful construction of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is lawful. This policy change is part of Trump’s pattern of seeking to legalize illegal Israeli practices. It panders to Israel at the expense of the Palestinians while aiming to burnish Trump’s bona fides with his Christian Zionist base. Christian Broadcasting Network quoted Jack Graham, pastor of the megachurch Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, as saying that the Trump administration “once again has demonstrated why evangelical Christians have been unwavering in their support.”

“The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere in Israel or otherwise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed, denying that the change in policy was designed to benefit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s locked in a tight battle for political survival.

Rabbi Alissa Wise, acting co-executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said, “It’s hardly a surprise that on the eve of Netanyahu’s indictment and Trump’s impeachment proceedings we suddenly have the Trump administration throwing the Geneva Convention and international consensus out the window and shamelessly pandering to the right-wing and evangelical base.” Amazon.com Gift Card i... Best Price: null Buy New $50.00 (as of 01:10 EST - Details)

Walking in lockstep with Netanyahu, Trump also illegally declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. And three months after he illegally recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Netanyahu named a new — and illegal — settlement under construction, “Trump Heights.”

On November 18, Pompeo announced the end of the United States’s 41-year policy of considering Israeli settlements to be unlawful. “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo declared.

In 1978, the Carter administration adopted the position detailed in a letter written by State Department Legal Advisor Herbert Hansell. It concluded that “the establishment of the civilian settlements in [the occupied Palestinian] territories is inconsistent with international law.” Hansell’s letter cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring “parts of its own civilian population into the territories it occupies.” The letter stated that just because territory comes “under the control of a belligerent occupant,” it “does not thereby become its sovereign territory.”

After the 1967 war, Israeli military forces occupied Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The narrative that Israel acted in self-defense when it attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria and seized those Palestinian territories is a false one.

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