The AP news agency reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has prepared a draft repudiating the 1978 state department legal opinion that civilian settlements in the occupied West Bank are inconsistent with international law. “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo says in the draft. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”
This view runs contrary to that of the Obama administration which allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law.
Pompeo was expected to say that the US would not take a position on the legality of specific settlements and that the new policy would not extend beyond the West Bank and create a precedent for other territorial disputes. He also planned to say that the decision did not mean the administration was prejudging the status of the West Bank in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Even though the decision is largely symbolic, it could also give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival, say AP sources. He may see it as a green light for additional construction, or even annexation, of lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.