'The United States on Monday reversed its decadeslong position that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal, in the latest step by the Trump administration to solidify Israeli control over areas claimed by Palestinians for a future independent state.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press conference that declaring the settlements were in violation of international law had not worked in bringing about Israeli-Palestinian peace, calling the shift in position a recognition of "the reality on the ground." He said from now on, the U.S. would take no position on the legality of any individual Israeli settlement, instead leaving that decision up to Israeli courts.
"After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President [Ronald] Reagan: the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law," Pompeo said.
The historic shift is the latest blow to Palestinian aspirations for statehood under the Trump administration, which also shuttered the de facto Palestinian embassy in Washington and moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem for the capital of a future state.
The reversal comes as the Trump administration maintains that it still intends to release a long-delayed Mideast peace plan drafted by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner along with a few top aides. The Palestinians have rejected any potential proposal and said the Trump administration has disqualified itself as a broker for Mideast peace by granting countless concessions to Israel.
Still, Pompeo said the U.S. was "not addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank," arguing it was something Israelis and Palestinians must negotiate between themselves.'
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