Daily Briefing: US Redefines American Policy on West Bank Settlements (November 21,2019)

Israeli settlements (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

The White House Says Israeli Settlements in the West Bank Are No Longer Illegal. Here’s What That Means:  Joseph Hincks, Time, Nov. 19, 2019

Why the U.S. Is Right to Recognize West Bank ‘Settlements’ as Legal David Harsanyi, National Review, Nov. 19, 2019

Pompeo’s Statement on Israeli Settlements is a Diplomatic Turning Point:  Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom, Nov. 18, 2019

In Sudden Switch, Canada Backs Pro-Palestine UN Resolution:  Raphael Aren, Times of Israel, Nov. 20, 2019


The White House Says Israeli Settlements in the West Bank Are No Longer Illegal. Here’s What That Means
Joseph Hincks
Time, Nov. 19, 2019

On Monday, the Trump Administration broke with decades of U.S. precedent to redefine America’s policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since President Trump took office in 2016, he has overturned long-held U.S. positions on several of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s most contentious issues, to the dismay of the Palestinian leadership. The White House’s latest announcement—that the U.S. will no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal under international law—is likely to further inflame those tensions. Here’s what to know.

What is Washington’s new policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Monday, “the United States has concluded that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.” Pompeo added that “calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.”

Close to 600,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements Israel built after it took over the territory in the Six Day War of 1967. The area is also home to almost 3 million Palestinians who live under the control of the Israeli security forces, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Almost 2 million more Palestinians live in Gaza, a 25-mile long strip administered by the militant group Hamas and subject to a 12-year-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

How does this differ from the past policy?

While Israel has long disputed the majority of the international community’s determination that settlements are illegal under international law, for decades the U.S. had adopted a position of compromise. The State Department, under former president Jimmy Carter, in 1978 deemed that Israeli settlements are “inconsistent with international law.” His successor, Ronald Reagan disagreed, saying in 1981 he did not believe settlements were inherently illegal. Since then, Republican and Democratic Presidents have referred to settlements as “illegitimate” but declined to call them illegal—a designation that would make them subject to international sanctions. But in one of his Administration’s last foreign policy acts, former President Barack Obama broke with that trend, declining to veto a U.N. resolution urging an end to settlements.

What could the new announcement mean for Israeli-Palestinian relations?

Palestinians say the building of Israeli settlements on land they hope to make part of a future state makes a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict virtually impossible. The number of new settlements has risen sharply under the Trump Administration; the Associated Press charted a 39% increase in Israeli spending on West Bank settlement infrastructure in the year following Trump’s election in 2016. Pompeo’s announcement on the legal status of settlements, says Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, risks substituting international law with “the law of the jungle.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Why the U.S. Is Right to Recognize West Bank ‘Settlements’ as Legal
David Harsanyi
National Review, Nov. 19, 2019

Say what you will about Donald Trump’s mercurial foreign policy, his support for Israel has been resolute in ways that no other president can match.

It was Trump who finally followed the law and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Every president since 1995 — the year the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which funds the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizes the city as the “undivided” capital of Israel, was passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate — had promised to move the embassy. None did.

It is probably Trump’s uniquely defiant disposition toward group-thinking State Department types that made the move possible. It’s difficult to imagine any of the other 2016 presidential hopefuls braving the massive internal opposition such a decision would provoke. But Jerusalem proper was never going to be the Palestinian capital, and it was about time everyone involved dealt with reality.

It was also the Trump administration that finally recognized Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights, a strategically vital strip of land from which Syria and her proxies have launched numerous wars, bombings, and terror operations against Israeli civilians over the past 70 years. Many of the same experts who claimed to be utterly disgusted by the idea of the U.S. ceding land in northern Syria were also grousing about how counterproductive it was for the United States to unilaterally affirm that Israel would control the Golan Heights. Well, Israel was never going to hand back this land to the Assad regime, or negotiate with it, and it was about time everyone accepted this reality.

And yesterday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that United States would no longer take the position that Israeli civilian “settlements” in the West Bank are “inconsistent with international law.” (Or, as our German ambassador Richard Grenell aptly put it, the United States would “no longer meddle in local Israeli zoning and building-permits issues.”) Many of those “settlements” — cities, really, some of them in existence for decades — are part of a de facto border, and they are never going to be bulldozed. That’s also reality.

It has always been a mistake for the United States to treat disputed territories in the West Bank as occupied. For one thing, it was impossible for Israel to “occupy” Palestinian territories because no such nation has ever existed. Israel spilled much blood taking the West Bank in self-defense from Jordan after that nation joined Egypt and Syria in the attempted destruction of Israel in 1967. Even then, Jordan had no legal claim to the territory. Israel offered 98 percent of the West Bank back right after the 1967 war, and on numerous occasions afterward. It was always refused. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Pompeo’s Statement on Israeli Settlements is a Diplomatic Turning Point
Caroline B. Glick
Israel Hayom, Nov. 18, 2019

Monday will long be remembered as a turning point in Middle East history. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement Monday that Israeli settlements are not illegal per se is the most significant shift in US Middle East policy in the past generation. Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital has been a matter of US law since 1996.

There was little interest in Washington in recent years in pressuring Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights. But the issue of the legality of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), has been the defining issue of much of the international discourse on Israel for a generation.

In the vast majority of cases, the discourse has revolved around the widely held allegation – with no basis in actual law – that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal.
This allegation has served as the justification for a continuous barrage of condemnations of Israel in the international arena and for anti-Israel legal verdicts in international courts including the International Court of Justice at the Hague in 2004 and the European Court of Justice last week.

The unsupported allegation that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal was also the basis for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 from 2016 and is a basis of the International Criminal Court’s ongoing probes of Israelis.

Pompeo made two revolutionary assertions in his statement. First, he said that “after carefully studying all sides of the legal debate,” like the Reagan administration before it, the Trump administration has concluded, “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”

Second, Pompeo noted, the near ubiquitousness of the false assertion that settlements are illegal has not advanced the prospects for peace. To the contrary, it has harmed the chances of getting to peace. In his words, “calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace.”

And of course, it hasn’t. Placing a lie in the center of the discourse on the Palestinian conflict with Israel is no way to promote understanding and coexistence.

In the interest of promoting peace, Pompeo instead told the truth. Not only are Israeli settlements not illegal. Pompeo noted that they are arguably more justified than civilian settlements built in other disputed territories.
In his words, the administration’s determination “is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank.” That is, it is based on the historic ties of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria. These ties lay at the heart of Jewish history and religion. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

In Sudden Switch, Canada Backs Pro-Palestine UN Resolution
Raphael Aren
Times of Israel, Nov. 20, 2019

Canada on Tuesday supported a United Nations resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state, in an unexpected move that led Israeli officials and Canadian supporters of the Jewish state to express disappointment and concern over what they said was a possible indication of a pivot from Ottawa’s decade-long pro-Israel voting pattern. Canada joined 165 other nations by voting yes on the resolution entitled “The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.

Over the last decade, both Liberal and Conservative Canadian governments have annually voted against the resolution, which, among other things, urges an “end to the Israeli occupation” and calls for the preservation of the “territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Sponsored by North Korea, Egypt, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and Palestine, Resolution A/C.3/74/L.58 also recognized the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state and urges the international community to “support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.”

Only Israel, the US, Nauru, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands voted against the resolution; nine countries, including Australia, Guatemala and Rwanda, abstained.  “Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel,” Krystyna Dodds, a spokesperson for the Canadian foreign ministry, told The Times of Israel when asked for the reason for Ottawa’s sudden switch from no to yes. “In keeping with Canada’s longstanding position, it is important at this time to reiterate our commitment to a two-state solution and the equal rights and self-determination of all peoples,” she added. “At a time when it is increasingly under threat, it is important for Canada to underscore our firm commitment to a two-state solution.”

At the same time, she stressed, “Canada maintains our strong opposition to the singling out of Israel for opprobrium at the UN, and has voted against the vast majority of these yearly Israel-related votes.”

“We are very disappointed by Canada’s vote,” said one Israeli diplomatic official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. “Israel and Canada are friends and our relations are close and strong. We hope it will continue this way.”

The official welcomed the appointment Tuesday of Francois-Philippe Champagne as Canada’s new foreign minister. Champagne, who is replacing Chrystia Freeland as the country’s top diplomat, is considered a strong supporter of Israel. “The foreign office establishment in Ottawa always fought the vote changes in favor of Israel that began under [former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin] between 2003 and 2006, and then significantly accelerated under [Conservative] prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2015,” said Hillel Neuer, a Canadian citizen who heads the Geneva-based watchdog UN Watch. “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau merely maintained the staunch pro-Israel record that Harper established at the UN General Assembly.”

Ottawa’s vote shift this week is likely motivated by the local “foreign policy establishment’s ideology and realpolitik,” posited Neuer. “The foreign ministry bureaucrats are more pro-Palestinian,” he told The Times of Israel. Canadian diplomats want to join their European colleagues who routinely support General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel, he added. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

The Liberal Party’s “Too Big” Tent:  Part Two:  Nathan Elberg, Isranet.org, Nov. 21, 2019 — In a pre-election blog post I discussed how the tent of the Canadian Liberal Party was large enough to accommodate anti-Semites such as Hassan Guillet, whose creed included the claim that Jews use children’s blood for baking matza.

US Faces Palestinian, International Criticism of Israel Settlement Move AFP, Nov. 19, 2019 — The United States faced stiff international and Palestinian criticism Tuesday over its decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal, while the Jewish state’s premier cheered on the “historic” move.

Israeli Settlements: Ivan Levingston, Bloomberg, Nov. 19, 2019 — Almost a tenth of Israel’s Jews live in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, outside their country’s recognized borders.

Trump Shift on Israeli Settlements Fulfills Wish List of Evangelical Base:  Maria Caspani and Matt Spetalnick, Reuters, Nov. 19, 2019 — A U.S. decision effectively backing Israel’s building of settlements in the occupied West Bank, long a cherished item on conservative Christians’ wish list, is expected to strengthen evangelicals’ support for Donald Trump as he seeks re-election in 2020, according to a leader of the president’s evangelical advisory group.

Does U.S. Shift on Settlements Increase the Chances for Peace? Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 2019 — In any conflict there is value in making sure that both sides recognize the truth. It helps them reach a viable and lasting solution.