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International voices condemned the U.S. decision to no longer consider the Israeli settlements in Palestine a war crime.

International voices condemned the U.S. decision to no longer consider the Israeli settlements in Palestine a war crime. (Photo:  rpb1001/flickr/cc)

'Naked Violation' of Human Rights: Global Condemnation Over New US Position on Israeli Occupation

"The American government's decision to jettison international law and to legitimise the illegal Israeli settlements is probably the very last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution."

Eoin Higgins, staff writer

A worldwide chorus of condemnation continued Tuesday over the U.S. decision to no longer ofiicially consider Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal.

Michael Lynk, U.N. Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, said the decision was "not a step towards peace or justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

"The American government's decision to jettison international law and to legitimise the illegal Israeli settlements is probably the very last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution," said Lynk. "This would meet the international definition of apartheid."

As Common Dreams reported Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified his announcement that the U.S. would no longer consider the settlements illegal with a claim that "calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) replied to the announcement Monday afternoon saying the move was the result of President Donald Trump "pandering to his extremist base."

In a statement, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philippe Nassif said that Monday's "announcement does not and will not change the law which is crystal clear: the construction and maintenance of settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, breaches international law and amounts to war crimes."

"It does however place the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at increased risk by giving Israel the green light to continue with its settlement building and expansion policy which sit at the heart of human rights crisis in the area," added Nassif.

International outcry over the decision focused on the illegality of the settlements and the U.S. taking a firm stand in a conflict toward which the superpower claims to wish to solve.

A spokesman for the U.N.'s human rights office (OHCHR), according to Al-Jazeera, said that it "shares the U.N. long standing position on the issue that Israeli settlements are in breach of international law."

Meanwhile, the foreign minister of Jordan, Ayman Safadi, warned that the move by the Trump administration will have "dangerous consequences" and a negative impact on an already struggling peace process.

"Pompeo's fictional statement changes nothing," tweeted Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth. "Trump can't wipe away with this announcement decades of established international law that Israel's settlements are a war crime."

In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights condemned the U.S. decision.

"This is a naked violation of basic international human rights and humanitarian law," the advocacy group said. "The military theft and occupation of Palestinian land is a war crime—as measured by norms established in Nuremburg to prevent again the horrors of German occupation of other European states—as well as a crime against humanity; it is part of a systematic project to erase Palestinians, legally and physically."

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the E.U. still believes the settlements are illegal.

"The E.U. calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power," said Mogherini.

Palestinian officials decried the decision and sharply criticized the notion that the U.S. could by decree legitimatize the settlements. 

"The United States is neither qualified nor is authorized to negate international legitimacy resolutions, and it has no right to give any legitimacy to Israeli settlement," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina told the BBC.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, in a statement, said that the settlements were war crimes. 

"Israeli colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law, they are war crimes," said Erekat. "And the statement of Mr. Pompeo, the secretary of state of the United States, is absolutely rejected and must be condemned."

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