A Guardian article published yesterday “US says Israeli settlements no longer considered illegal in dramatic shift”, Nov. 18) by their Global Affairs editor Julian Borger and Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes, errs in these sentences:

The US has declared that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are not necessarily illegal, in a dramatic break with decades of international law, US policy and the established position of most US allies.

“The US declaration [by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo] marks the rejection of a 2016 UN security council resolution that settlements on the West Bank are a “flagrant violation” of international law and the US legal position on the issue since 1978.”

Contrary to the Guardian’s claim that the new US declaration rejects the US legal position on the issue since 1978, the 1978 US State Department Hansell Memorandum they’re referring to, which maintained that settlements are illegal, was not the basis of 40 years of U.S. policy, a time period which includes Ronald Reagan’s policy which held that the settlements are not illegal. 

Kohav Hashachar (Photo taken by UK Media Watch)

The statement is also inconsistent with subsequent administration positions that viewed settlements as an obstacle to peace, and “illegitimate” but which took no position on their legality.

As former US Mid-East Peace Envoy Dennis Ross observed, “Since the Reagan administration, the US made a policy that settlements were a political issue and not a legal issue.”

Further, note this 2016 Associated Press (AP) correction, prompted by CAMERA:

In a story Nov. 16 about Israel’s settlement policy, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the United States considers Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank to be illegal. While the United States opposes settlement construction, it does not take a position on its legality. Instead, it says that settlements are “illegitimate,” ″corrosive to the cause of peace” and “raise serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.” Most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.

That same year, UK Media Watch prompted The Times to correct a similarly false claim regarding the US position on the settlements:

We wrongly said that the United States, like most other countries, considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be “illegal” (World, Dec 17). The US position is that the settlements are “illegitimate”.

We’ve contacted Guardian editors – and Tweeted the journalist – seeking a correction.

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