An official at the U.S. Embassy in Israel outlined some of the thinking behind Washington's recent policy shift on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying the U.S. encouraged the parties to "find a solution that works for both sides" and that at the heart of the President Donald Trump's involvement was his belief that "truth must be the foundation of any resolution."
No comment was made on any coordination between Israel and the Trump administration on the decision to rescind a 1978 legal opinion holding that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law,” which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday.
The embassy official's answers to queries by Haaretz are below.
Was there any coordination with Israel?
I will not comment on what discussions the Administration has had.
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What does this mean on the ground?
We are simply stating our position that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law, and that legal conclusions relating to individual cases of settlement activity must depend on an assessment of specific facts and circumstances surrounding the activity in question.
We encourage the parties to include resolution of the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in any final status negotiations.
The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate peace between the parties, and international law can help frame a lasting peace going forward. We encourage the Parties to include resolution of the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in any final status negotiations, and to find a solution that works for both sides and promotes and protects the welfare of Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Did the President push this himself?
President Trump has made it clear that truth must be the foundation of any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All sides must have the courage to recognize hard truths.
Who gave the legal advice?
Secretary Pompeo directed a review of the U.S. position on this issue, and the review process has concluded. Lawyers from the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor were involved in the review process.