On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a statement announcing the reversal of decades-long US policy: The United States recognizes the legality of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
“US public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades.” Pompeo said, noting the Carter administration’s 1978 denouncement of settlements as illegal, only to have that positioned later overturned by President Reagan who did not view settlements as inherently illegal. “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.” Pompeo continued, “…calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the decision saying, “I spoke on the phone with US President Donald Trump and told him that he had corrected a historic injustice. Somebody needed to say a simple truth, and President Trump did this…” he continued, referring to their conversation, “I said to President Trump that we are not in a foreign land. This is our homeland for over 3,000 years. The reason that we are called “Jews” is because we came from here, from Judea.”
There are over two hundred settlements in Judea and Samaria, home to around 450,000 Israelis. Judea and Samaria, often called the West Bank, is a region central to Israel’s 3,300-plus year history in the land. From 1948 until 1967, no Jews were allowed in the land, which was occupied illegally by Jordan, and renamed the West Bank. In 1967, Israel was attacked from Jordan in the east, and fought back, liberating Judea and Samaria and bringing the area under Jewish control once again.
Since then, the United Nations has repeatedly and routinely condemned Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria and blames the building of Israeli settlements as the obstacle to peace. International law however, dating back to the League of Nations in 1922, sets the land aside for a Jewish State. Israel took control of the land in a defensive war, and the requirements of the oft cited UN Resolution 242, which was agreed to after the war, have been met. As to settlements being the obstacle to peace, it is Palestinian refusal to cease from terrorism and negotiate with Israel that has been the roadblock to peace. Several times Israel has offered over 90% of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians only to be turned down. And the terror attacks continue.
This shift in US policy is a welcome one. Not only does it help expose the lie that settlements are an obstacle to peace, it also helps bring legitimacy to what should be the most normal thing in the world: Jews making their homes in Judea.