The United States faced stiff international and Palestinian criticism over its decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal, while the Jewish state’s premier cheered on the “historic” move.
The United Nations and European Union stressed the decision would not change the reality that the settlements were illegal, while the Arab League condemned the unilateral move by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
A UN independent human rights expert on Tuesday condemned the U.S. policy shift on the settlement issue in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“This is not a step towards peace or justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory.
“The American government’s decision to jettison international law and to legitimize the illegal Israeli settlements is probably the very last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.”
The EU reiterated it still considers all settlement activity illegal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said he was “very moved” by the announcement.
Netanyahu visited the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank south of Jerusalem on Tuesday. “Here we are on a historic day with another tremendous achievement for the State of Israel,” he told settler leaders, according to a statement.
Roughly 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live on more than 100 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.
The Palestinian Authority — which considers the US biased and has rejected the Trump administration as a mediator if peace talks are ever revived — called for an emergency meeting of the body.