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Israeli settlements ‘inconsistent with international law,’ Blinken alleges in reversal of Pompeo doctrine

Republicans slam Biden administration for ‘undermining Israel’ during ongoing war

View of the Jewish settlement of Eli, in the West Bank, Jan. 17, 2021. (Photo: Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The Biden administration sees the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria as illegal, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said on Sunday, thereby reversing the previous administration’s 'Pompeo policy.'

Blinken's statement came in response to the announcement by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that Israel plans to advance the construction of some 3,000 new homes in three settlements within Judea and Samaria, internationally known as the West Bank.

Smotrich's announcement was made following the recent terror attack near Jerusalem last week.

“We’re disappointed in the announcement,” Blinken said on Friday during a joint press conference.

“It’s been longstanding U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace,” he continued.

“They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion. And in our judgment, this only weakens – it doesn’t strengthen – Israel’s security,” Blinken added.

These statements are contrary to the stance that the settlements conform with international law, as was formulated under the previous U.S. Trump administration in 2019, in a policy called the “Pompeo Doctrine,” after the former secretary of state.

Up until Blinken’s comments on Friday, Biden officials had not yet commented on the widely contested legality of the settlements.

The policy change was sharply criticized by Republicans, with former U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo himself responding: “Judea and Samaria are rightful parts of the Jewish homeland, and Israelis have a right to live there.”

“President Biden's decision to overturn our policy and call Israeli 'settlements' illegal will not further the cause of peace. It rewards Hamas for its brutal attacks on October 7th and punishes Israel instead. These Israeli communities are not standing in the way of peace; militant Palestinian terrorism is,” he wrote on 𝕏.

U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson also slammed Blinken’s comments.

“It is an absolute disgrace the Biden administration would issue this decision, especially as Israel fights terrorists on multiple fronts that seek Israel’s destruction and as more than 130 hostages remain in Gaza,” he wrote on 𝕏.

“The Biden Administration must stop undermining Israel and facilitating efforts to delegitimize Israel. It is misguided and unconscionable.”

Johnson agreed with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who explained that he had researched the issue with State Department lawyers during his tenure.

“There is nothing illegal about Jews living in their biblical homeland. Indeed, Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow, also the Dean of the Yale Law School (who negotiated UNSCR 242), stated that Israel has the best legal claim to Judea and Samaria,” Friedman wrote.

Despite National Security Spokesman John Kirby explaining the sudden policy change as reaffirming the long-standing U.S. policy on the issue, the timing of the announcement seems to indicate the Biden administration is attempting to pressure Israel to stop its war against the Hamas terror organization in Gaza.

The United States has been increasingly frustrated with Israel's refusal to wind down the fighting. The Biden administration has been especially concerned about the rising number of casualties among Gazan civilians, which are being used by the Democrats' progressive wing to put pressure on the Biden administration in an election year.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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