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US Settlement Offer 'Totally Contradicts With International Law' - Abbas Spokesman

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Israel and Palestine flags - Sputnik International
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced earlier on Monday that Washington no longer views the existence of Jewish settlements established by Israel in the occupied West Bank as inconsistent with international law.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, said Monday that the US move "contradicts totally with international law", according to Reuters and AFP.

Washington is "not qualified or authorized to cancel the resolutions of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement", Rudeineh said, cited by AFP.

Earlier in the day, Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion on the illegality of settlements - now home to over 600,000 Israelis - the latest Trump administration move to bolster Tel Aviv’s grip over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories claimed by Palestinians establishing a state of their own.

Pompeo suggested that the US decision not be used as precedent for any other part of the world or interpreted as an attempt to prejudge the ultimate status of the West Bank.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat on Monday echoed Rudeineh's statement, slamming the Trump administration assertion as "irresponsible US behaviour".

“International law and system clearly define the illegality of all Israeli settlements, including by the International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council, and the International Committee of the Red Cross”, Erekat said, adding that “Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprise perpetuates the negation of the Palestinian right to self-determination [...] Once again, with this announcement, the Trump administration is demonstrating the extent to which it’s threatening the international system with its unceasing attempts to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle’".

Jordan's Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, warned of "dangerous consequences" to Washington's change of position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Safadi noted that the Jewish settlements in the territory are illegal, undermining the prospect for a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state could exist side-by-side with Israel, a solution Arab countries say is the only way to resolve the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict, according to Reuters.

Notably, the European Union quickly rejected the Trump administration move.

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace [...] The EU will continue to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties”, an EU spokesperson said in a statement, cited by The Times of Israel.

The West Bank was seized by Tel Aviv in 1967, during the Six-Day War. Despite protests by Palestinians and almost the entirety of the international community, Israel refuses to release the territory, including East Jerusalem - which is partially occupied by Israel - and the Gaza Strip.

The Palestine Authority is currently divided between two major factions - Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Trump administration for what the beleaguered politician described as "righting a historical wrong".

"Israel remains ready and willing to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinians regarding all final status issues in an effort to achieve a durable peace but will continue to reject all arguments regarding the illegality of the settlements", Netanyahu said, adding that Tel Aviv is "deeply grateful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire US administration for their steadfast position" and added that the rest of the world must "adopt a similar position".
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