On November 18, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US no longer considers Israeli settlements inconsistent with international law, reversing a 1978 Department of State legal opinion that asserted that inconsistency, a position the US has affirmed since that time.
In December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2334, which states that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” and demanded, “that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.”
Since the 1967 War, when Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza began, Israel has established more than 230 settlements in the West Bank, with more than 800,000 settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (In 2005, Israel removed roughly 8,000 settlers living in the 21 settlements from Gaza, but it continues to subject the Gaza Strip to a blockade.) On Dec. 8, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu reiterated his plan to annex the Jordan River valley and West Bank settlements.
Three days after Sec. Pompeo’s announcement, 107 House Democrats rejected the position of the Administration as stated by Sec. Pompeo, articulating their position in a letter to him. They stated, “In ignoring international law, this administration has undermined America’s moral standing and sent a dangerous message to those who do not share our values: human rights and international law, which have governed the international order and protected U.S. troops and civilians since 1949, no longer apply.”
Palestinian churches and Christians have expressed deep concern about the US’ reversal, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and Kairos Palestine. The World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches in the USA have also criticized Sec. Pompeo’s announcement. UCC and Disciples leaders have also made clear their opposition to this recent decision.
Please contact your representatives in Washington, urging them to reject the Administration’s reversal, and to continue to oppose Israeli settlements and settlement construction, expansion, and activity. If your representative signed the letter to Sec. Pompeo, please express your thanks and urge her/him to remain engaged.
Please feel free to use this sample letter when you contact your representative:
I am deeply concerned about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Nov. 18 announcement in which the current Administration reversed decades-long US policy holding that Israeli settlements are inconsistent with international law.
Israel has built and expanded settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since its occupation of those territories began in June 1967. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 800,000 settlers living in over 230 settlements in those places. International law has consistently held that they are illegal, and this was reaffirmed in the December 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which the US did not oppose.
More than 100 Congressional representatives have already expressed their opposition to Sec. Pompeo in a Nov. 21, 2019 letter. Palestinian churches and other Christians, including US and global ecumenical councils have also expressed their opposition to this recent change in US understanding.
I write as a person of faith who supports international law, and who is troubled by the US Administration’s recent reversal. I ask that you stand firm in your support of established US policy and international law, rejecting the Administration’s change of position and acting in Congress consistent with that rejection.