The announcement last week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo legitimising Israeli settlements was a departure from the prevailing view on settlements in the West Bank. Most reactions criticised the US move as illegal and a radical breach of US policy that undermines efforts to reach peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Egypt has officially said that the US’s recent position is an attempt to legitimise Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, in violation of international law and conventions.
The weekly report on settlements prepared by the PLO’s National Bureau for Defending the Land and Resisting Settlements stated that detrimental US decisions against the Palestinian cause pave the way for new settlement activities and plans to annex settlements to the occupation state. One of these schemes aims to create an extension between Jerusalem and MaaleAdumim settlement, while other plots plan to build on land belonging to Jerusalem Airport (Qalandia Airport) and the settlement of GivatHaMatos on the land of Beit Safafa. Thousands of housing units are planned in these areas, and are at different stages of construction.
The report added that Washington is backtracking on previous promises after a series of unfair decisions and measures it took in favour of the occupation state. The State Department’s official position since 1978 was that building settlements in the West Bank is inconsistent with international law.
This is a grave move by the US and the latest in a series of hostile US actions that align and conform with Israel’s policies to dismantle the Palestinian cause. This began with the US’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, freezing funding to UNRWA, and continued hostile positions against the Palestinian Authority. These are all attempts by Washington to lay a new foundation that violates international law, to launch a possible peace process that is certain to lead to dissolving the Palestinian cause and the legacy and legal pillars on which the Palestinian cause is founded.
The US move is not only a threat to the Palestinian cause, but also to the international legal system. As such, the global community rejected the US’s declaration. There was unanimous objection at the Security Council meeting eight days ago, where 14 countries voted against the move, except for the US, since the decision is a threat to the system of international law and an assault on Palestinian rights and what they are granted by international law. International law is not drawn up by a single country no matter how great its status or role. The global community insists on implementing international law and the established principles and fundamentals of these laws, and championing Palestinian rights.
During an emergency ministerial meeting a few days ago, the PLO and Arab League called on world capitals that condemned the US’s decision on settlements, enjoining international, legal and humanitarian organisations, most notably the UN, International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice, to deploy pragmatic mechanisms to derail these policies. This would also require regional, Arab and Islamic positions to rise to the occasion in the face of challenges and risks at hand.
Legitimising settlements would also signal that international law and international decisions have no weight if might makes right and major powers support the usurpers of the occupied Palestinian lands — often referred to as the last occupied territories on the planet.
The conscience of the world must act now before Israel kills and buries it.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.