IPMN Condemns Unilateral Move on Israeli Settlements by the Trump Administration
November 20, 2019 — On November 18, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was reversing its position on the status of Israeli settlements and countermanding a 1978 State Department legal opinion that concluded Israeli settlements in the region were “inconsistent with international law.”
Let it first be said that the opinion of one particular U.S. administration cannot possibly overturn the stance of the international community on this highly contentious issue. Further, the 2016 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 reaffirmed 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 a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Additionally, according to the International Criminal Court (ICC), it is a war crime to settle civilians in occupied territory, as Israel has long been doing. Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the ICC states “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory’ as a war crime when committed as part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes.”
We strongly agree with the statement of our denomination’s Washington Office of Public Witness that the actions of the Trump administration and their disregard for international law “are only likely to intensify the dispossession and oppression caused by the settlements and escalate an already tragic situation.”
This breach of international law and global accord is an affront to all who seek a just and peaceful resolution in Israel and Palestine. J-Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel advocacy group, points out that the Pompeo statement discards “decades of bipartisan US policy” and disregards “international law…trampling on the rights of Palestinians and helping the Israeli right-wing to destroy Israel’s future…” Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel U.S. Lobby, is not taking a position on settlements.
Cutting through the outrage, Palestinian human rights scholar Noura Erakat noted that "what we're seeing now is not a sharp reversal in U.S. foreign policy… but instead the culmination of it." She explained that “for more than five decades, since 1967, all U.S. administrations have talked out of both sides of their mouth. On the one hand, they have condemned settlements as counterproductive to peace and as a contravention of international law, and, on the other hand, have provided Israel with the unequivocal diplomatic, military and financial aid in order to entrench their settlements.”
Her clarity on duplicitous U.S. policies is appreciated. For decades, our denomination has opposed violence of any kind in the region, as well as Israeli settlements inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories. And for decades, continuing General Assembly actions have expressed clear opposition to illegal Israeli settlements which create new facts on the ground by moving more and more Jewish settlers into the West Bank.
As far back as the 201st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1989, our denomination has been clear about what it takes to seek and achieve peace in Israel/Palestine. In a special report on Israel and Palestine, we urged “the United States government to work with [all] parties to disavow explicitly all... that threaten the livelihood, the existence, or the territorial integrity of any party, and cease actions based upon these statements.”
As for our investments and not profiting from injustice in Palestine, since 2014 our policy has been an “intention to undertake such investments in ways that do not contribute to the continuation of Israel’s occupation, annexation, or blockade of those areas, with specific attention to the illegal Israeli buildings, settlements, and barriers built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
In its landmark report “Breaking Down the Walls,” the 219th General Assembly (2010) included this warning statement: “The situation on the ground is changing rapidly. The rise of the extremist settler movement within Israel belies the ‘Israel as a nation for all of its citizens’ we so long to see. The ongoing land expropriation and settlement expansion, in East Jerusalem in particular, continues to undermine, and indeed, destroy the possibility for a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.” Since then, settlement expansion has multiplied exponentially and now runs deep into the West Bank with over 700,000 Jewish settlers living on Palestinian lands.
There is a way out of the Israel/Palestine impasse. Palestinians are asking for full and equal rights and an end to the segregated system they have been forced to live in. Eliminating military law and dismantling the apartheid system of two sets of laws for two different peoples under the control of the same state will go a long way to bringing about equality and begin a process of healing and reconciliation.
The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA) encourages all Presbyterians and members of partner denominations to call upon the U.S. government to reverse this dangerous and unproductive course of action and return to a discourse and negotiations that seek peace rather than making unilateral pronouncements that will surely lead to continuing oppression, violence and war.
Read this statement on our website.