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Russia, Palestinians Denounce US Support for Israel Settlements

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Russia says the United States decision giving support to Israeli settlement claims in the occupied West Bank will hurt the Middle East peace process.

The Russian foreign ministry statement said it condemned the decision saying it would increase tensions in the area. Russia said it considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory illegal under international law.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not "inconsistent with international law."

Pompeo said that U.S. statements have not been consistent over time. He said that President Jimmy Carter's administration found that the Israeli settlements were not consistent with international law. Pompeo said, however, the administration of President Ronald Reagan found that they were not inherently illegal. Israel captured the territory in 1967 during what some call the Six Day War with Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a statement on the Trump administration's position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a news briefing at the State Department in Washington, Nov. 18, 2019.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a statement on the Trump administration's position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a news briefing at the State Department in Washington, Nov. 18, 2019.

Palestinians condemned the U.S. announcement. A spokesman for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said the U.S. "has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli Settlement." Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat denounced the move saying the U.S. wanted to "replace international law with the 'law of the jungle.'"

The Palestinians point to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and other U.N. Security Council resolutions. The convention bars the movement of a country's civilians to occupied land. One Security Council resolution under the administration of President Barack Obama called the settlements a "violation" of international law.

Pompeo defended the new U.S. policy, saying, "Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace."

He said the Trump administration believes that the issue should be dealt with by Israeli courts which have made judgments on the issue before.

FILE - This photo taken on January 25, 2017 shows a partial view of the Israeli settlement of Beit El near the West Bank city of Ramallah (background).
FILE - This photo taken on January 25, 2017 shows a partial view of the Israeli settlement of Beit El near the West Bank city of Ramallah (background).

The secretary of state said the new policy did not prejudge the status of the West Bank after the sides involved had reached a negotiated agreement. He also said that the decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal related only to the West Bank because of its unusual history. He said it did not extend to other places in the world.

The decision appears to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to remain in power after two Israeli elections. Netanyahu has been a strong supporter of settlements in the West Bank and under him they have expanded.

However, the decision raises questions about the Trump administration's promised plan for Middle East peace. It remains unclear if that plan, which has not yet been released, can move forward.

Today, about 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Both areas are claimed by the Palestinians. After the Six Day War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, which is home to the city's most important religious places. The move is not internationally recognized. However, Israel has never annexed the West Bank.

Palestinians and others say the settlements hurt the possibility of a negotiated agreement for an independent Palestinian state.

I'm Mario Ritter Jr.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this Reuters story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Words in This Story

consistent –adj. acting in the same way over time

inherently –adv. belonging to the basic nature of something

legitimacy –n. according to rules or laws

status –n. the position of something in comparison to other things

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