sábado, abril 13

US returns to position that new Israeli settlements are illegal

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Friday that the U.S. government now considers new Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories «inconsistent with international law,» marking a reversal of a policy established under the Trump administration and a return to a policy of several decades. American position on this controversial subject.

Blinken spoke at a news conference in Buenos Aires after Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made an announcement Thursday that thousands of new residences would be added to the settlements. Mr. Blinken said he was “disappointed” by this announcement.

“Long-standing U.S. policy, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, views new settlements as counterproductive to achieving lasting peace,” he said. “They are incompatible with international law. Our administration remains firmly opposed to settlement expansion. And in our view, this only weakens – not strengthens – Israel’s security. »

Mr. Blinken was in Argentina for meetings with recently elected President Javier Milei and Foreign Minister Diana Mondino.

In Washington, White House spokesman John F. Kirby reiterated that position in comments to reporters. “It’s a position that has been consistent across a series of Republican and Democratic administrations: If there’s one administration that’s inconsistent, it’s the previous one,” he said.

State Department officials declined to say what steps, if any, the United States might take to hold Israeli settlers or the government legally accountable for building new settlements.

For many years, settlements have proliferated in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, without the United States insisting on any legal action. Around 500,000 residents now live in the occupied West Bank and more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

New housing projects last year in Givat Ze’ev, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The Biden administration has reinstated a nearly 50-year-old U.S. policy that considers Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories “illegitimate” under international law.Credit…Ohad Zwigenberg/Associated Press

In November 2019, President Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, reversed four decades of US policy by asserting that the settlements did not violate international law. State Department lawyers never issued a new legal decision supporting this policy change, and Mr. Blinken’s return to the old policy is consistent with a long-standing legal conclusion of the department.

Beginning in 2021, when President Biden took office, diplomatic reporters asked State Department officials whether Mr. Blinken planned to reverse Mr. Pompeo’s decision, but officials responded each time that There was no change in policy.

Some State Department officials became concerned last year over a sharp increase in violence by extremist settlers. After the Hamas attacks on October 7, violence intensified in the West Bank, and Mr. Biden and Mr. Blinken began to denounce these actions and the expansion of settlements.

On Friday afternoon, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal American Jewish advocacy group that tries to shape policy regarding Israel, welcomed Mr. Blinken’s announcement.

“Now the administration must make clear that, particularly in light of the current volatile situation between Israelis and Palestinians, there must be no further expansion of the settlement enterprise,” he said. in a press release. He added that the Biden administration should show that it «will take additional steps to enforce its view – and that of the international community – that the creeping annexation of the West Bank must end.»

Mr. Pompeo’s decision in 2019 strengthened the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had pledged in two elections that year to annex the West Bank. Mr. Netanyahu’s new ruling coalition includes several far-right ministers who support this direction, and it is these politicians who have helped Mr. Netanyahu stay in power despite widespread criticism of him over his failure to protect Israel attacks of October 7. Hamas and its efforts to undermine the power of the judiciary.

On Thursday evening, the office of one of those ministers, Mr. Smotrich, announced that an existing Israeli planning committee that oversees construction in the West Bank would be convened.

He said the committee would move forward with plans for more than 3,000 housing units, most in Ma’ale Adumim, near the site of a Palestinian shooting earlier in the day. Mr. Smotrich’s office described the settlement expansion as an «appropriate Zionist response» to the attack.

“Let all terrorists who plot to harm us know that raising their hands against the citizens of Israel will bring death, destruction and the deepening of our eternal hold over the entire Land of Israel,” Mr. Smotrich in a press release.

Mr. Smotrich’s office did not say when the committee would be convened, whether the units would be new homes or what stage of the planning process they were at.

Mr. Blinken also said he would refrain from passing judgment on the post-war plan for Gaza that Mr. Netanyahu had begun circulating among Israeli officials. Mr. Blinken said any plan must align with three principles: Gaza must not be a base for terrorism; the Israeli government should not reoccupy Gaza; and the size of the territory of Gaza must not be reduced.

“There are certain basic principles that we established several months ago,” he said, referring to the results of a diplomatic conclave in Tokyo, “that we consider very important when it comes to concerns the future of Gaza.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting from Jerusalem.