The Trump administration announced this week that the United States will now recognize the legal status of Israeli communities in the West Bank, reversing a 41-year view that these civilian settlements are “inconsistent with international law.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the new Trump policy repudiates the 1978 State Department legal opinion from the Carter administration known as the Hansell Memorandum. The memorandum suggested that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria were illegal, and every subsequent administration, Republican and Democrat alike, refused to act on it. In 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that conclusion and stated that he didn’t believe that the settlements were inherently illegal. However, during Obama’s final month in office in 2016, his administration chose to abstain, rather than veto, the resolution that condemned Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law at the United Nations Security Council.
The Trump administration agrees with President Reagan that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not inconsistent with international law. Pompeo stated that the Trump administration believes any legal questions about settlements should be resolved by Israeli courts and that declaring them a violation of international law distracts from larger efforts to negotiate a peace deal.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria. In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea. . . Israel is deeply grateful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire U.S. administration for their steadfast position supporting truth and justice and calls upon all responsible countries who hope to advance peace to adopt a similar position.”
This new Trump policy also helps weaken the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which attempts to undermine and destabilize Israel and use economic tools to boycott Israeli goods and services and punish individuals and entities supporting Israel. It uses harassment and intimidation to turn Israel’s supporters against the country and distorts reality and facts to apply maximum, harmful pressure on the Jewish state of Israel and on the Jewish people. For years, the Palestinians have attempted to force the Jewish people to give up their land in Judea and Samaria. During the Obama administration, the U.S. forced Israel to stop building in the West Bank and that has had serious direct implications for the Israeli economy.
Israel captured the Golan Heights, or Bashan as it was known, in the 1967 Six-Day War against Syria. The U.S. since referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-occupied” land rather than owned by Israel, which under international law it had a right to claim as territory gained in a defensive war. Today, approximately 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We commend the President Trump for again affirming Israel by recognizing the legal status of Israeli communities in the so-called West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria. He has already officially recognized the Golan Heights as territory of Israel. In fact, the State Department’s annual report on human rights violations around the world has finally dropped reference to the West Bank in Israel as ‘occupied’ for the first time since 1979. The relationship between Israel and America is the best it has ever been due to President Trump’s leadership. I applaud him for being a great friend to the Jewish people and keeping yet another promise.”