United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres says the organisation’s long-held position on the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank had not changed.
This comes after the United States made a major policy shift when Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank were not, per se, inconsistent with international law. The new policy – which runs counter to a 1978 State Department Legal opinion that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are inconsistent with international law – will also pit the United States against almost all of the international community that views settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Our UN correspondent Sherwin Bryce-Pease posed this question to the SG; Are settlements a violation of international law?
SG: Our position remains exactly the same, nothing will change.
That’s the view of the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after the latest unilateral action by the United States as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements. US public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
Pompeo was quick to add they were not pre-judging the ultimate status of the West Bank and that remained for Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate in a final resolution of the decades-long conflict. But it does run counter to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN resolutions including one passed by the Security Council in 2016 that found Israeli settlements to have no legal validity, that they represented a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.
The Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric went even further than his boss.
“As far as we are concerned we remain guided by relevant Security Council resolutions which we remain committed to supporting the Palestinians and Israelis to achieve lasting and durable peace based on those resolutions. The SG periodically reports on resolution 2334, which also remains our guiding light. We regret the decision and the announcement made by the United States.”
The two parties to the conflict had different reactions to the Pompeo announcement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed it.
“The Trump administration has righted a historic wrong here, stood with truth and justice, I thank President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo, I think it’s a great day for the state of Israel and an achievement for generations.”
This was the view of Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat.
“This administration constitutes a real threat on world peace and security. And as Palestinians we will stand tall with international law, we know we are under occupation.”
The Security Council will hold its monthly briefing on the Palestinian question on Wednesday where the settlement issue is expected to again dominate with a number of Council Ambassadors, including several Europeans, expressing their disquiet about the US move.