More than 120 US Congressmen have sent an urgent letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to reverse his announcement in which he considered Israeli settlements in the West Bank as legal.
“This announcement, following the administration’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem outside of a negotiated agreement… severely damaged prospects for peace, and endangered the security of America, Israel, and the Palestinian people,” the letter read, adding: “As annexation [of the West Bank] and the United States’ approval thereof would destroy prospects for a two-state solution and lead to a more entrenched and possibly deadlier conflict, this decision erodes the security of both Israel and the United States.”
The signatory Congressmen said the move, which came in the aftermath of the US’ closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington and its Consulate in Jerusalem and the halting of aid Congress appropriated to the West Bank and Gaza, has discredited the United States as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Congressmen continued, “We write to express our strong disagreement with the State Department’s decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank by repudiating the 1978 State Department legal opinion that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”
“U.S. administrations from both parties have followed the 1978 guidance because settlement expansion into the occupied West Bank makes a contiguous Palestinian state inviable, jeopardizing Israel’s future as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people,” added the letter.
The Congressmen said further that the State Department’s unilateral reversal on the status of settlements, without any clear legal justification, “has offered a tacit endorsement of settlements, their expansion, and associated demolitions of Palestinian homes. In addition, one day after the Department’s decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved to advance a bill to annex the Jordan Valley.”
“This State Department decision blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which affirms that any occupying power shall not “deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” In ignoring international law, this administration has undermined America’s moral standing and sent a dangerous message to those who do not share our values: human rights and international law, which have governed the international order and protected U.S. troops and civilians since 1949, no longer apply.”
The letter concluded, “If the US unilaterally abandons international and human rights law, we can only expect a more chaotic and brutal twenty-first century for Americans and our allies, including the Israeli people.”