An Intense Controversy Over U.S Policy Reversal Towards Israeli Settlement


The U.S. recently reversed its policy on Israeli settlement in the West Bank, stirring up an intense controversy over peace on Israeli-Palestinian territory. According to BBC news, last Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that, “the United States has concluded that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlement in the West Bank is not inconsistent with international law.” Apparently, the immediate change of U.S. policy has demonstrated the U.S. stance which would no longer abide by the long-standing United Nations legal opinion in 1978.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has rooted in the long-standing dispute over the illegally occupied territory by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. Currently, more than 600,000 Israelis reside in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and yet three million Palestinians are also living there. Thus, the statement declared by U.S would provide a green light for Israelis to justify their illegal settlement and continue to expand their occupation in the West Bank, further obscuring the two-state peace process. Jordan’s foreign minister stated that the immediate shift in the U.S. stance towards Israeli settlement could have “dangerous consequences” on the prospect of peace and stability in the Middle East.

Trump’s administration has substantially upheld Israel in a series of moves, including recognizing the proclaim of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, opening an embassy in the city, recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Golan Heights, and cutting aid to UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees. Furthermore, the current shift of the U.S. regarding to Israeli settlement in the West Bank has demonstrated their softened attitude toward Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister also welcomed and applauded the U.S. policy as a “policy that rights a historical wrong.”

This reversal has also triggered tensions and dissent among Palestinians people including rights groups and politicians. They sharply criticize Trump’s Administration for contravening international consensus on Israeli’s territory encroachment. Palestinian people perceived that the decision of U.S. would virtually undermine the two-state solution. A Palestinian spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeinah said, “Washington is not qualified or authorized to cancel the resolution of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement” according to Aljazeera.

The growing scatter of Israel in the West Bank is a grave violation to international consensus. The international community has considered Israel’s activity as a breach of international law based on The Fourth Geneva Convention that was ratified by 192 nations. It states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The activities of transferring populations are considered to be war crimes. Likewise, the European Union also concurred that the settlement activity of Israeli people in the occupied Palestinian territory is an intense violation of international law that will imperil peace in the region. The EU has urged Israel to terminate all settlement activity in line with its obligation as an occupying power. Furthermore, the 2004 legal advisory opinion ruled, “the expansion settlement of Israelis has severely impeded the Palestinians’ ability to exercise their right to self-determination.” On the other hand, Israelis argue that, “there was no legal sovereign power in the area and therefore the prohibition on transferring people from one state to the occupied territory of another does not apply.”

The reckless changes of U.S policy has sparked a detrimental impediment to the possibility of future peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. The U.S. decision to recognize Israeli settlement has provoked blistering arguments and questions from major international actors as it goes against international consensus and perspectives. It is essential for the international community to be impartial and hold Israel accountable toward their violation including illegal occupation and annexation of Palestinian territory. Palestine and Israel should open a bilateral dialogue and negotiation so as to move forward from the deadlock and reach a peace agreement to the current political tension.

Sochea Chhay

Senior Student in International Relations at Pannasastra University of Cambodia