U.S. backing renews focus on Israeli settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was swift to embrace Washington's backing of settlements on Israeli-occupied land on Tuesday (November 19).

And to make political capital out of the announcement as he struggles to maintain power following two inconclusive elections and allegations of corruption.

Though Palestinians and Arab leaders say the dramatic U.S. shift threatens the international rule of law, Netanyahu said he was "moved" on a walkabout in the Etzion settlement bloc:

(SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER, BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, SAYING:

"The Trump administration has righted a historic wrong here, stood with truth and justice. I thank President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo. I think it's a great day for the state of Israel and an achievement for generations."


Monday's (November 18) announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abandoned a position the United States has held for 40 years: that the settlements are "inconsistent with international law."

It moved Donald Trump's administration even closer to Netanyahu, and further from the international position.

Washington has already moved its embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israel's annexation of the occupied Golan Heights, and cut international assistance to Palestinians.

The settlements are built in the West Bank, which Israel seized in a 1967 war -- and the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from settling part of its population in captured territory.

About 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and want it as part of their future state.

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR SAEB EREKAT SAYING:

"This administration constitutes a real threat on world peace and security, and as Palestinians we will stand tall with international law. We know we are under occupation."

Palestinian residents of the West Bank say it isn't Washington's to give away, but theirs.