US Reverses Course on West Bank Settlements

by | Feb 24, 2024

US Reverses Course on West Bank Settlements

by | Feb 24, 2024

israel settlement

FILE PHOTO: The Israeli settlement of Giv'at Ze'ev is seen in the occupied West Bank.

The planned expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is “inconsistent” with international law, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, potentially signaling a policy shift for Washington.

Speaking to the media in Buenos Aires on Friday, the top US diplomat addressed reports that Tel Aviv intends to construct thousands of new settlement units across the West Bank, saying the White House was “disappointed” by the news.

“Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment this only weakens, doesn’t strengthen Israel’s security,” Blinken said, adding that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law“ and “counterproductive to reaching enduring peace.”

The comments appeared to mark a return to previous US policy, which for decades regarded Israel’s racially exclusive colonies as a clear violation of international law. The Trump administration broke with that position in late 2019, when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Washington no longer viewed the settlements as “inconsistent with international law.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby later reiterated Blinken’s stance, saying US policy “has been consistent over a range of Republican and Democratic administrations – if there’s an administration that is being inconsistent, it was the previous one.”

Palestinian activists and other critics of settlement expansion frequently cite the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “may not forcibly deport protected persons, or deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory.” 

A long line of United Nations resolutions have concluded much the same, with the Security Council previously finding the settlements were in “flagrant violation” of basic humanitarian law and had “no legal validity.” The UNSC has urged Israel to halt construction and to fulfill its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich – a religious super-hawk who has called for the outright annihilation of Palestinian villages – detailed plans for new settlement units on Thursday. The announcement came soon after three Arabs opened fire on Israelis near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank, just east of Jerusalem, killing one and injuring five, according to local police. 

“The serious attack on Ma’ale Adumim must have a determined security response but also a settlement response,” Smotrich wrote in a social media post. “I demand that the Prime Minister approves the convening of the [Central Planning Bureau] and immediately approves plans for thousands of housing units in Ma’ale Adumim and the entire region. Our enemies should know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country.”

Israeli officials have yet to confirm the number of new units under consideration, though local media reports said the government is seeking to construct 3,000 homes in the occupied West Bank, where some 500,000 settlers currently live.

IDF raids have dramatically escalated in the West Bank since Israel launched its war on Gaza last October, with at least 260 Palestinians killed in the territory in that time – a 50% spike compared to the first nine months of 2023 – according to the UN and Amnesty International. Local health officials place the figure higher, at nearly 400 deaths, while an additional 7,100 Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces since Hamas’ October 7 attack.

Gaza’s health ministry has estimated nearly 30,000 fatalities amid round-the-clock bombings on densely populated urban centers, while much of the enclave’s population is now displaced. Upwards of 1 million people have sought refuge in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, prompting fears of a humanitarian disaster should Israel make good on threats to attack the city by the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.


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About Will Porter

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor at Find more of his work at Consortium News, ZeroHedge and RT.

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