Well, the Squad isn’t going to be too happy about this. President Donald Trump has significantly changed U.S. policy on Israel. Of course, this isn’t the first time his administration has made moves that its predecessors would not have attempted. But this particular decision may rate as the most controversial when it comes to the Middle East.
Trump Administration Changes Israel Policy
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press briefing on Nov. 18 in which he announced that the Trump administration was altering a policy put into place under the Obama administration. Going forward, the United States will not view Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as a violation of international law.
“The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements,” Pompeo said. “U.S. public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades.”
The secretary explained that U.S. presidents, such as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, disagreed on the legality of Israel’s settlement activities. Then Pompeo stated that the United States would take a different stance. “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan,” Pompeo said. “The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
Pompeo then laid out the parameters of the new policy, saying “we recognize that, as Israeli courts have, the legal conclusions relating to individual settlements must depend on assessments of specific facts and circumstances on the ground.”
The secretary then indicated the United States is “not addressing or pre-judging the status of the West Bank,” explaining that issue is “for the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate.”
The Right Move?
It’s not hard to imagine the criticism the left leveled at the White House after Pompeo’s announcement. Some expressed concerns that the new stance would hamper an already stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. While some of the left’s comments were principled, others were in full hysteria mode, claiming that this would lead to Israel annexing the West Bank.
Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth put forth this argument on Twitter:
“Many fear Trump’s announcement pretending Israel’s illegal settlements don’t violate the 4th Geneva Convention will lay the groundwork for annexation. That’ll leave three choices in the one-state reality:
“1. Mass expulsion.
“2. Equal rights.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) lambasted the decision and Israel on Twitter. “Israel’s WB settlements demolish entire Palestinian villages, needlessly harming children & families & drastically setting back the goal of a peaceful two-state solution.”
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) also peddled the annexation theory, tweeting: “By legitimizing illegal Israeli settlements, the Trump admin paves the way for the annexation of Palestinian lands, kills a two-state solution, and ensures Israel’s permanent military occupation of the West Bank. This is Pres. Trump’s ‘anti-peace process.’”
But is there a valid reason for Israel’s settlements to be considered lawful? The history of the conflict between Israel and her neighbors reveals that the Israeli military actions were justified. Before Israel won control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the lands were illegally occupied by Jordan and Egypt, respectively. But when five Arab nations threatened the Jewish state in 1967, and again in 1973, Israel pushed its enemies out of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights.
Israel’s acquisition of these lands in defensive wars fought against Arab aggressors is the reason the Israelis are in the West Bank and Golan Heights today. In 2005, the Jewish nation pulled its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. Previously, these lands were never part of a sovereign state, and there was never a country called “Palestine.”
The White House’s new stance toward Israel causes no small amount of controversy. But as Democrats continue their impeachment efforts, the West Bank situation is likely to fall out of the spotlight. How it will impact the peace process between Iran and the Palestinians is unclear, but the new policy demonstrates strong and continuing U.S. support for Israel.
Read more from Jeff Charles.