Israelis Laud ‘Historic’ U.S. Policy Shift on Settlements; Palestinians Call for International Rebuke

Israeli settlement officials called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement that settlements don't violate international law a “historic” decision and thanked the U.S. administration for its shift in policy.

Pompeo's Monday evening announcement signals the administration's softening of its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the latest in a series of Trump administration moves that weaken Palestinian claims to statehood.

Minutes after Pompeo spoke, the European Union issued a response: "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.

"The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference where he unveiled the new American policy toward Israeli settlements, Washington, November 18, 2019. Andrew Harnik,AP

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in tweet the move "will advance the cause of peace by creating an appropriate level playing field for future talks."

The Prime Minister's Office said the decision righted a historical wrong. "This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea," it stated.

The statement added, "The Trump Administration policy is also correct in stating that those who have categorically denied any legal basis for the settlements not only deny truth, history and the reality on the ground, they also set back the cause of peace, which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties."