Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, November 19 announced a major reversal of the U.S.' longstanding policy on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, rejecting a 1978 State Department legal opinion that deemed the settlements "inconsistent with international law."
The announcement, which breaks with international law and consensus, is the latest in a string of hardline, pro-Israeli moves that are likely to inflame tensions between the Trump administration and Palestinians and widen the divide between the Trump administration and traditional U.S. allies in Europe.
"After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate... the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law," Pompeo said, citing President Ronald Reagan's 1981 assessment that the settlements were not "inherently illegal."
Pompeo said the U.S. government is "expressing no view on the legal status of any individual settlement" or "addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank."
He said the conclusion was "based on the unique facts, history and circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank."
The new U.S. position was swiftly repudiated by the European Union, with diplomats noting President Donald Trump's desire to woo evangelical voters and privately saying the move reflects a U.S. willingness to "give the finger" to international law.