Feb 23, 2024 - World

Blinken reverses Trump-era policy on Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a news conference on Dec. 20, 2023. Photo: Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a news conference on Dec. 20, 2023. Photo: Nathan Howard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Friday that Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank is "inconsistent with international law," reversing a Trump-era decision that had overturned decades of U.S. policy on the issue.

Why it matters: Blinken's decision to reverse what has been known as the "Pompeo doctrine" comes as a response to the Israeli government's announcement on Thursday that it plans to expand the settlements in the West Bank, a U.S. official told Axios. The move has been considered by the State Department for the last three years.

What they're saying: "We are disappointed with the announcement [of new settlements]. It has been a long-standing policy of both Democratic and Republican administrations that new settlements are counterproductive to achieving enduring peace. They are also inconsistent with international law," Blinken said.

  • "Our administration maintains firm opposition to settlement expansion, In our judgment it only weakens, not strengthens Israel's security," he added.

Flashback: Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November 2019 announced the U.S. would no longer view Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem as "inconsistent with international law."

  • While largely symbolic for the Trump administration, it was a major shift in U.S. policy because it overturned a legal position held by the U.S. State Department since 1978, when the Carter administration determined that the settlements were a violation of international law. Much of the international community holds the view that the settlements are illegal.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Friday that Blinken's decision "isn't about the previous administration."

  • "We are simply reaffirming the fundamental conclusion that these settlements are inconsistent with international law. ... That is a position that has been consistent over a range of Republican and Democratic administrations," Kirby said. "If there's an administration that is being inconsistent, it was the previous one."

Driving the news: The Israeli government on Thursday announced that it will soon approve plans for more than 3,000 new housing units in the settlements.

  • It was the first decision to expand the settlements since the Gaza war started. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn't taken such steps in recent months to avoid any major confrontation with the Biden administration, according to Israeli officials.
  • The Israeli announcement came after authorities said an attack by Palestinian gunmen near the Maale Adumim settlement killed one Israeli and wounded several others.
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