(December 17, 2019 / JNS) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a stern rebuttal on Monday to a letter signed by more than 100 congressional Democrats last month criticizing the Trump administration’s decision in November to modify U.S. policy regarding the legality of Israeli settlements.
The letter, which was authored by Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) on Nov. 21 and signed by 106 Democrats, expressed “strong disagreement” with the State Department’s new policy and urged Pompeo to “reverse this policy decision immediately.”
In the letter, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Pompeo refers to Levin’s arguments that the announcement contradicted decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and “blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” writing: “While I appreciate your interest in this important issue, I couldn’t disagree more with those two foolish positions.”
“The State Department’s determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements,” he added. “Rather, the State Department reversed a legal determination by secretary [John] Kerry made during the waning days of the Obama administration, that the establishment of settlements was categorically inconsistent with international law.
“That determination was made in a failed attempt to justify the Obama administration’s betrayal of Israel in allowing UNSCR 2334—whose foundation was the purported illegality of the settlements and which referred to them as ‘a flagrant violation of international law’—to pass the Security Council on December 23, 2016.”
The U.N. resolution was seen by many at the time as a parting shot at Israel by the outgoing Obama administration.
“While you are free to fixate on settlements as a barrier to peace, you are simply wrong in referring to that view as being subject to bipartisan agreement,” wrote Pompeo. He then quotes Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s speech at the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference, where the New York Democrat said, “It is sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.”
Pompeo then reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and argued that the U.S. policy announcement on the settlements was an “important step” towards achieving that.
“We approach the issue pragmatically and diplomatically,” he wrote. “But we eschew the erroneous positions of international law that have gained favor in the past decades. … The State Department’s recent determination that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se illegal is an important step in the peace process, and we are confident that it creates the right platform for further progress.”
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