Biden administration restores Trump-rescinded policy on illegitimacy of Israeli settlements

Feb 23, 2024, 6:00 PM

(Karim Jaafar/Pool via AP)...

(Karim Jaafar/Pool via AP)

(Karim Jaafar/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Friday restored a U.S. legal finding dating back nearly 50 years that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are “illegitimate” under international law.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. believes settlements are inconsistent with Israel’s obligations, reversing a determination made by his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, in the Biden administration’s latest shift away from the pro-Israel policies pursued by former President Donald Trump.

Blinken’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question about an announcement that Israel would build more than 3,300 new homes in West Bank settlements as a riposte to a fatal Palestinian shooting attack.

It wasn’t clear why Blinken chose this moment, more than three years into his tenure, to reverse Pompeo’s decision. But it came at a time of growing U.S.-Israeli tensions over the war in Gaza, with the latest settlement announcement only adding to the strain. It also came as the United Nations’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, is holding hearings into the legality of the Israeli occupation.

Biden administration officials did not cast Blinken’s comments as a reversal — but only because they claim Pompeo’s determination was never issued formally. Biden administration lawyers concluded Pompeo’s determination was merely his opinion and not legally binding, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions.

But formally issued or not, Pompeo’s announcement in November 2019 was widely accepted as U.S. policy and had not been publicly repudiated until Blinken spoke on Friday.

Speaking in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, Blinken said the U.S. was “disappointed” to learn of the new settlement plan announced by Israel’s far-right firebrand finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on cars near the Maale Adumim settlement, killing one Israeli and wounding five.

Blinken condemned the attack but said the U.S. is opposed to settlement expansion and made clear that Washington would once again abide by the Carter administration-era legal finding that determined settlements were not consistent with international law.

“It’s been longstanding U.S. policy under Republican and Democratic administrations alike that new settlements are counter-productive to reaching an enduring peace,” he said in his news conference with Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino.

“They’re also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion and in our judgment this only weakens, it doesn’t strengthen, Israel’s security,” Blinken said.

For decades, U.S. policy on settlements was guided by the 1978 determination known as the “Hansell Memorandum,” which was penned by the State Department’s then-legal adviser Herbert Hansell. Hansell’s finding did not say that settlements were “illegal” but rather “illegitimate.” Nonetheless, that memorandum shaped decades of U.S. policy on the issue.

Pompeo repudiated that policy in November 2019. The Biden administration had long considered re-implementing it as it sought to adjust its Middle East strategy. Those deliberations had picked up steam as Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks drew increasingly intense international criticism.

United States News

Associated Press

Report urges fixes to online child exploitation CyberTipline before AI makes it worse

A tipline set up 26 years ago to combat online child exploitation has not lived up to its potential and needs technological and other improvements to help law enforcement go after abusers and rescue victims, a new report from the Stanford Internet Observatory has found. The fixes to what the researchers describe as an “enormously […]

24 minutes ago

Associated Press

The Latest | Trump returning to court for opening statements in his historic hush money trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Opening statements in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial are set to begin Monday morning, setting the stage for weeks of unsavory and salacious testimony about the former president’s personal life and placing his legal troubles at the center of his closely contested campaign against President Joe Biden. A panel of […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Kevin Bacon dances back to “Footloose” high school

PAYSON, Utah (AP) — Actor Kevin Bacon on Saturday returned to the Utah high school where the cult classic movie “Footloose” was filmed more than 40 years. Bacon danced his way to a stage on a Payson High School athletic field Saturday to greet students before what likely was the final prom held at the […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Arkansas teen held on murder charge after fatal shooting outside party after high school prom

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas teen is in custody on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the fatal shooting of a high school senior outside a party early Sunday following a high school prom. Donterious Stephens, 19, of Helena, turned himself in to authorities Sunday afternoon in the shooting death of Lorenzo […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Terry Anderson, AP reporter held captive for years, has died

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Terry Anderson, the globe-trotting Associated Press correspondent who became one of America’s longest-held hostages after he was snatched from a street in war-torn Lebanon in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, has died at 76. Anderson, who chronicled his abduction and torturous imprisonment by Islamic militants in his best-selling 1993 […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Suspect in killing of Idaho sheriff’s deputy fatally shot by police, authorities say

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho sheriff’s deputy died after being shot by a driver during a traffic stop, and a man believed to be the shooting suspect was later fatally shot by police, authorities said Sunday. Deputy Tobin Bolter was shot as he approached the driver’s window at about 9 p.m. Saturday in Boise, […]

17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Biden administration restores Trump-rescinded policy on illegitimacy of Israeli settlements