Pompeo Speech Rankles in International Circles

GENEVA (Reuters/Hamodia) -
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

While Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ visited with leaders of Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron to celebrate the Pompeo speech backing the Israeli presence in the region, condemnations continued to be heard from abroad.

The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday that Israeli settlements in Yehudah and Shomron remain in breach of international law, rejecting the Trump administration’s position accepting them.

The United States on Monday abandoned its four-decade-old position that the settlements, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, were inconsistent with international law.

“We continue to follow the long-standing position of the U.N. that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law,” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing.

“A change in the policy position of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council,” he said.

The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion issued in 2004, said that Israeli settlements in the region, including eastern Yerushalayim, were established in breach of international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 – which both the United States and Israel have ratified – lays down that an occupying power shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, he said.

The ICRC, guardian of the Geneva Conventions that embody international humanitarian law (IHL) protecting civilians and others, reiterated its position that the territory in question is considered occupied territory.

“Additionally, the ICRC has repeatedly stated that Israel’s settlements policy goes against key provisions of IHL, or the law of occupation, and is contrary to its intent and spirit. The recent U.S. declaration does not change the ICRC’s position on the matter,” ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said.

Also in Moscow, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that the change in U.S. policy undermined the legal basis for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the change of policy in a statement on Tuesday, warning the move would escalate tensions in the region.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said such an “unfortunate change” in the American position would not bring Israel security, peace or normal relations with Arab countries.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter: “No country is above international law” and “fait accompli style declarations” had no validity.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said the U.S. shift would have “dangerous consequences.” Calling the settlements illegal, he said they killed prospects for a Palestinian state existing side by side with Israel.

But in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, the state news agency did not mention the issue after a cabinet meeting, focusing instead on criticism of Israeli air raids in Gaza.