Middle East

Blinken says any expansion of West Bank settlements would be inconsistent with international law

By Jennifer Hansler, Haley Britzky and Donald Judd, CNN

CNN  — 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday declared that any expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank would be inconsistent with international law – reversing a Trump era position that broke with longstanding US policy.

“It’s been longstanding US policy, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike, that new settlements are counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace,” Blinken said at a press conference in Buenos Aires.

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

Blinken’s comments are among his clearest denunciation of the settlements. The Trump administration had reversed US policy to declare that settlements did not violate international law.

In 2019, under Trump, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday called for thousands of new housing units in the occupied West Bank after Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli man in his 20s and left six others wounded.

Blinken on Friday condemned that attack.

The top US diplomat said he was “disappointed” by reports that Israel would expand the settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Still, it is unclear what measures, if any, the US is prepared to take if Israel does go through with such an expansion.

On Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby pushed back on the interpretation that Blinken’s comments were a reversal, instead saying they reaffirmed longstanding policy that the Trump administration had broken with.

“It’s been a longstanding US policy, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, that new settlements are counterproductive to the cause of peace– frankly, they’re also inconsistent with international law, and this administration maintains this firm opposition to settlement expansion,” he said.

He said Blinken’s comments outlined “a position that has been consistent over a range of Republican and Democratic administrations– if there’s an administration that is being inconsistent, it was the previous one.”

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