Nov. 18 (UPI) — The Trump administration declared Monday that it will no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the change in policy during a press conference Monday afternoon, stating U.S. policy on the matter has been inconsistent and that declaring the settlements illegal had not helped to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Regan: the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo clarified that the United States would express no view on the legal status of “any individual settlement” in the West Bank and would leave the determination to Israeli courts.
He added that the U.S. was also not “addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank,” saying Israelis and Palestinians must resolve the issue themselves.
“The hard truth is there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict and arguments about who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” he said.
The deal sends a blow to Palestinians who seek to establish a state independent from Israel.
Earlier this year Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected to the post.
Netanyahu is currently tasked with forming a government with political rival Benny Gantz, who applauded the decision on Monday.
“The fate of the settlements should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements to promote peace,” he wrote on Twitter.