US backing for settlements a blow to peace - GulfToday

US backing for settlements a blow to peace

US backing for settlements a blow to peace

The latest US move puts it at odds with the UN Security Council resolutions declaring the settlements to be illegal. Reuters

Washington’s decision to back Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank by abandoning its four-decade-old position that they were “inconsistent with international law” is an insult to the international community and an outrageous act.  

If at all anything, the decision would only make Israeli-Palestinian peace even more elusive.

It puts the United States at odds with the rest of the world and breaks with UN Security Council resolutions declaring the settlements to be illegal as they are built on occupied land.

The occupation forces have already been increasingly emboldened. The activist group Peace Now says that Israel has approved 8,337 housing units in the year through October, an increase of 50 per cent from a year earlier.

It is good the United Nations human rights office has made it unambiguously clear that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory remain in breach of international law, rejecting the Donald Trump administration’s position that it now backed them.

“We continue to follow the long-standing position of the UN that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville has stated. “A change in the policy position of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council.”

The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion issued in 2004, unmistakably declared that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, were established in breach of international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 — which both the United States and Israel have ratified — lays down that an occupying power shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

No wonder, the entire world is furious with the US decision.

“This changes nothing. President Trump can’t wipe away decades of established international law that settlements are a war crime,” Andrea Prasow, acting Washington director at Human Rights Watch, has pointed out.

Philippe Nassif of Amnesty International also insists that the construction and maintenance of the settlements breached international law and amounted to war crimes.

As he put it: “Today, the United States government announced to the rest of the world that it believes the US and Israel are above the law: that Israel can continue to violate international law and Palestinians’ human rights and the US will firmly support it in doing so.”

Blind support by Washington has emboldened Israel to embark on a dangerous path. This is especially so considering a series of actions taken by the Trump administration which has clearly been in favour of Israel and none in support of the Palestinian cause.

The halting of funds to the UNRWA, recognising occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, relocating US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, refusing to restrain Israel from illegally expanding settlements are just a few among such moves hostile to Palestinians.  

Israel should be forced to end all settlement activity. The anger of the Palestinians is totally justified. Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reflected the feelings of the entire peace-loving world when he stated that the latest move by the US is an attempt to try and force the Palestinians to capitulate and give up their claims to an independent state.

“They wanted us on our knees and they used every trick — internally, externally, regionally — to put pressure on us. We stand tall and we will stand tall.”

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