Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back Monday against congressional Democrats who demanded that the Trump administration retract its declaration last month that it views Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as legal under international law.
In a letter penned by Pompeo Monday and sent to Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan, who authored the Democratic letter condemning the State Department’s position, the Secretary of State called Democrats’ positions against Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria “foolish”, Israel Hayom reported Monday night.
Last month, Pompeo announced that the State Department did not view Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as being inherently illegal under international law, reversing the policy set down late in the Obama administration, mirroring the position adopted by the Carter administration four decades earlier.
Days later, 106 Democrats signed a letter written by Rep. Andy Levin condemning Pompeo’s declaration and demanding that the Trump administration reverse its position vis-à-vis Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
The decision, the signees argued, undermined America’s “moral standing,” and cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a clause which is often cited by those arguing that Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria are illegal under international law.
On Monday, Pompeo fired back, writing that the 106 Democrats who signed onto the letter held “foolish positions”, adding that viewing Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as illegal was not a long-established, bipartisan position in the US as Levin’s letter had claimed.
“You criticize the State Department’s determination that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not categorically inconsistent with international law – a decision which you contend reverses ‘decades of bipartisan US policy on Israeli settlements,’” wrote Pompeo.
“You further argue, in conclusory fashion, that this determination ‘blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. While I appreciate your interest in this important issue, I could not disagree more with those two foolish positions.”
Pompeo went on to note that only the Carter and Obama administrations had defined Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as illegal under international law, adding that the Reagan administration reversed the Carter-era decision in the matter.
Pompeo added that the Obama administration’s decision to allow the United Nations Security Council to in December 2016 to pass a resolution condemning Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria as illegal “receive bipartisan condemnation, including from leading Democrats in both chambers of Congress.”
“While you are free to fixate on settlements as a barrier to peace, you are simply wrong in referring to that view as being subject to bipartisan agreement. No less a Democratic spokesman than the Senate Minority Leader publicly stated at his AIPAC address on March 5, 2018, that ‘it’s sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.’”
Regarding Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, Pompeo said that the administration “has thoroughly reviewed and analyzed this issue and we respectfully disagree.”
“Among the numerous sources and authorities supporting your view, I commend to you the writings of Eugene Rostow, who left his position as Dean of Yale Law School to become Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration. Dean Rostow represented the United States in the peace talks that followed the 1967 Six Day War and was responsible for the drafting of UNSCR 242, which even today remains the primary architecture for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Dean Rostow stated in 1983 that ‘Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank’.”
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