US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced a major reversal of the American longstanding policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, rejecting a 1978 State Department legal opinion that deemed the settlements "inconsistent with global law", CNN reports. His successor, Ronald Reagan disagreed, saying in 1981 he did not believe settlements were inherently illegal.
The move further sours ties with Palestinians, who have said the U.S.is no longer a credible arbiter of the peace process. Pompeo added that "calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with global law hasn't worked".
"This is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate", he said, saying the USA decision was not meant "to compel a particular outcome nor create any legal obstacle to a negotiated resolution".
The move granting Israel and its courts a free hand, he asserted, would "provide the very space for Israelis and Palestinians to come together to find a political solution".
Palestinians and the global community say the settlements are illegal and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
With a large section of Palestinian refugees living in Jordan and hoping for the creation of an independent Palestinian state to "go back home", Jordan continues to push for a two-state solution. Making it about Trump is self-exculpatory and a continuation of violence.
Now, however, given the U.S. support to Netanyahu's right-wing policies, doubts run high as to whether the United States administration will be able to mediate between the rival parties, bringing them to the negotiating table. It says the legal right of Jewish settlement there as recognised by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was preserved under the UN's charter.
"Trump administration once again shows its complete disdain for the law", she tweeted. While most blueprints for a peace agreement envisage a land swap - Israel retains the main settlement blocs, where a majority of the settlers live, and hands over other territory to the Palestinians - the more remote and populated the settlements, the harder that becomes.
Third, the conclusion that we will no longer recognize Israeli settlements as per se inconsistent with worldwide law is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances presented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank.
That legal opinion, known as the Hansell Memorandum and crafted during the Carter administration, said that "civilian settlements in those territories is inconsistent with global law".
Worldwide law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.
The Palestinian leadership is divided between the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement in the West Bank, and the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza. There has already been a sharp increase in settlement planning and construction since Mr Trump took office.
Before that, in 2004, the United States exchanged letters with the Israeli government explicitly endorsing Israel's retention of major West Bank settlement blocs in any peace deal with the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the shift in policy, saying the U.S. moved "rights a historical wrong".
Every president since 1995 - the year the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which funds the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizes the city as the "undivided" capital of Israel, was passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate - had promised to move the embassy. Prior to that, United States policy had been that the status of Jerusalem was to be decided by the parties involved in the conflict.
In 2018, the U.S. also announced it was cutting its contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians have condemned the USA green light for a boost in the Tel Aviv regime's expansive policy, with Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, asserting that it must be condemned.
"Entrenching the occupation and its injustice, and violating the resolutions of global legitimacy will not achieve peace, and will not guarantee security and stability", said Ayman Safadi, Jordan's Foreign Affairs Minister.
On Monday, however, Pompeo said: "The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is not, per se, inconsistent with worldwide law".
"This is clear from worldwide law and multiple United Nations resolutions". Erekat then underscored that the United States statement was a "response" to the decision by the European Court of Justice on the labelling of Israeli products that come from West Bank settlements.