The U.S. policy reversal on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank amounts to a “new crime” against the Palestinian people, said Palestine’s ambassador to Turkey.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Israeli settlements in the territory will no longer be viewed as illegal “per se”.
The announcement broke away from the State Department’s 1978 legal opinion which held that Israeli settlements are “inconsistent with international law.”
“This is a new crime to be added to the series of crimes committed by the current U.S. administration against the Palestinian people and their cause,” Faed Mustafa told Anadolu Agency.
“The settlement issue is still on the table as are other final status issues such as Jerusalem and refugees, to be resolved through negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis,” he said.
Mustafa said the U.S. move “granted Israel the alleged right to annex these settlements despite the fact that Israel has agreed to negotiate this issue.”
Roughly 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live on more than 100 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians insist to regain the entire West Bank along with the Gaza Strip for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.
U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel collapsed in 2014 due to Israel’s refusal to halt settlement building in the West Bank and accept the pre-1967 borders as a basis for a two-state solution.
The Palestinians have rejected any U.S. mediation in peace talks with Israel after Washington recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Mideast conflict.
Mustafa said the U.S. move was nothing but “political madness.”
“The international community has to intervene immediately to stop that fiasco,” he said. “The international community should assume their moral and legal responsibilities in this regard.”
In response to the U.S. move, the European Union reiterated that the Israeli settlements remained illegal under international law.
“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace, as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
Mustafa hailed the EU’s position.
“The international community rushed to condemn the U.S. decision as they did with the unilateral moves taken by the current administration in 2017,” he said, referring to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Trump’s decision to abolish annual aid to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
He said the Palestinian leadership is currently discussing moves to respond to the U.S. announcement, noting that Ramallah has asked for holding an emergency meeting of the Arab foreign ministers to discuss the U.S. decision.
“We are also considering calling a ministerial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the issue,” he said.
“We all have to come together against this recklessness, which aims at nothing but to undermine the peace initiatives the international community came with in the last decades to resolve the conflict.”
The Palestinian envoy praised Turkey’s rejection of the U.S. policy shift on settlements.
“We hail the Turkish position that rejected and denounced the U.S. move in the first hours,” he said.
“It was not only Turkish officials but also the public and different political parties who strongly condemned the U.S. move.”
On Tuesday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry described the U.S. move as a “new example of the reckless attitude to legitimize the illegal acts of Israel” and has no validity with respect to international law.
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