Israel's settlement expansion 'inconsistent with international law', says Blinken

US Secretary of State's comment appears to be a significant reversal of the Trump-era policy

The Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near the Palestinian village of Al Sawahre in the occupied West Bank. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said Israeli plans to push forward with the construction of more than 3,000 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank were “inconsistent with international law”.

“It's been long-standing US policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace,” Mr Blinken told reporters in Buenos Aires, where he had travelled following the conclusion of a G20 meeting in Brazil.

“They're also inconsistent with international law.”

Mr Blinken's comment appears to be a significant reversal of the Trump-era policy known as the Pompeo Doctrine, in which the US deemed settlements to be legal.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby doubled down on Mr Blinken's sentiments in Washington, saying: “This administration maintains our firm opposition to settlement expansion.”

President Joe Biden's administration had been reluctant to change Washington's stance on settlements, while still voicing its displeasure over previous expansions.

But Mr Blinken's comments signals it is reverting back to the pre-Trump policy that Washington had previously held since 1978, when the Jimmy Carter administration deemed settlements to be in breach of international law.

Israeli settlements – in pictures

This stance is shared by much of the international community, including the UN and the International Court of Justice.

The subtle but important shift comes after Israel’s ultra-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced the country’s plan to approve the construction on more than 3,000 homes in the West Bank.

More than 700,000 Israelis live in settlements, according to the UN, a number that makes any future Palestinian state increasingly difficult to envision.

Washington has been Israel's biggest supporter throughout its war in Gaza, thrice vetoing UN Security Council resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire, including one earlier this week.

But as the war has dragged on, the Biden administration has come under increasing pressure to rein Israel in.

Last month, the administration sanctioned four Israelis for their involvement in violence in the West Bank, where settler attacks on Palestinians have spiked since the Hamas attacks of October 7.

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Updated: February 23, 2024, 6:49 PM