Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman on Wednesday sharply criticized a US State Department report that did not refer to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights as “occupied.”
For the first time on Wednesday, the State Department, in its annual report on human rights around the world, ceased to refer to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan as “occupied” and called the latter territory “Israeli-controlled.”
“The American decision to drop the adjective ‘occupied’ in [reference to] the Palestinian territories and the Golan is a continuation of the American administration’s approach, which is a hostile to the Palestinian people and in violation of resolutions of international legitimacy,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in comments published on the official PA news site Wafa.
In last year’s report, the State Department broke with tradition by not describing the West Bank, Gaza and Golan as “occupied” in the title of the section dedicated to those territories. This year’s report, however, went even further and totally omitted references to the West Bank, Gaza and Golan as “occupied,” except in quotes from outside organizations, such as the Israeli nonprofit Breaking the Silence and the United Nations.
Abu Rudeineh, who also serves as PA deputy prime minister and information minister, added that the US terminology “will not change the reality that the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 and the occupied Arab Golan are lands under Israeli occupation according to the United Nations and international law.”
Most of the international community considers the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan to be occupied territories. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Six Day War. The Jewish state uprooted all permanent civilian and military presence in the Gaza Strip in 2005.
While Israel has extended residency to Druze inhabitants of the Golan and East Jerusalemite Palestinians, it has not done so for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Despite the change in language vis-a-vis the Golan Heights, an administration official on Wednesday denied that it amounted to American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over that area.
“Our policy on Golan has not changed,” a spokesperson for the US embassy in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel.
Abu Rudeineh also alleged that the US decision to drop the reference to “occupied” was part of an American effort “to allow what is called ‘the deal of the century’ to liquidate the Palestinian people to come to pass,” referring to US President Donald Trump’s apparently forthcoming proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
American officials have said the US administration intends to publish a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the near future.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will look at the peace plan with an “open mind,” while Abbas has vowed not to consider any US proposal.
Since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and initiated the relocation of the US embassy in the Jewish state to the city, American-Palestinians ties have dramatically deteriorated.