U.S. Policy Change Draws Praise and Condemnation

YERUSHALAYIM -
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. (Flash90)

Reaction to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement of a revision of policy on Yehudah and Shomron, essentially backing Israeli claims to the region, has brought forth an immediate outpouring of praise and condemnation.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ hailed it as “an important policy that rights a historical wrong… clearly reject[ing] the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law.

“The Trump Administration policy is also correct in stating that those who have categorically denied any legal basis for the settlements not only deny truth, history and the reality on the ground, they also set back the cause of peace, which can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said, “I am pleased that the effort has concluded and that the Secretary’s conclusions have been published,” according to The Jerusalem Post. “I believe that they will bring truth and clarity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and advances the cause of peace.”

That, of course, was not the view of Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat, who condemned the decision as seeking “to replace international law with the law of the jungle.

The European Union recycled its Mideast policy statement in rejecting Pompeo’s declaration:

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement.

The Yesha Council of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron issued a statement saying: “For more than 50 years we have been claiming that the State of Israel has a historical and legal right to the area, and it is time that the entire world know and understand that it is ours.”

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official was quoted by The Times of Israel saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been working on the dramatic change in U.S. policy “for a number of months.”

The issue was moved forward by the National Security Council and the department for international law at the attorney general’s office, the official noted.

Also on Monday, apparently anticipating a violent reception to the announcement from Palestinians, the Embassy in Yerushalayim issued a travel advisory for U.S. citizens to exercise vigilance in traveling in Yerushalayim, Yehudah and Shomron and Gaza.