Responding to an announcement by the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, that the U.S. will not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philippe Nassif, said:
“Today, the United States government announced to the rest of the world that it believes the U.S. and Israel are above the law: that Israel can continue to violate international law and Palestinians’ human rights and the U.S. will firmly support it in doing so.
“Today’s announcement does not and will not change the law which is crystal clear: the construction and maintenance of settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, breaches international law and amounts to war crimes. It does however place the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at increased risk by giving Israel the green light to continue with its settlement building and expansion policy which sit at the heart of human rights crisis in the area.
The U.S. announcement not only goes against the international consensus on the illegality of Israeli settlements but also goes against the U.S.’s legal obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions.
We are unafraid to say clearly and without ambiguity: no U.S. announcement can change the law and we will continue to work hard to ensure that international law and human rights are respected, protected, and those perpetrating violations will be held to account.
Background and context:
The situation in the OPT is primarily governed by two international legal regimes: international humanitarian law (including the rules of the law of occupation) and international human rights law. International criminal law is also relevant as some serious violations may constitute war crimes.
Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local population contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.
All states that are party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, including Israel and the U.S. are under an obligation to “ensure respect” for the Convention. The obligation to ensure respect has been widely interpreted as requiring positive action on the part of individual states. All states are also under an obligation under customary international law to refrain from conferring recognition on an illegal situation, such as that created by Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Amnesty International calls on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activity as a first step to dismantling all Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the OPT and relocating Israeli civilians living in such settlements outside of the OPT.