Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on Tuesday condemned the US announcement that it no longer necessarily views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that they were “inconsistent with international law.”
Hezbollah, in a statement carried by its Al-Manar TV outlet, said: “This position is invalid and illegal and violates international conventions and customs that the United States falsely claims to abide by.”
“Hezbollah views the declaration, and previous hostile American steps, in the context of Washington’s ongoing attempts to liquidate the Palestinian issue,” Hezbollah said.
“This move won’t change the reality that the Israeli entity is an occupier, and every occupation is destined to end,” it added.
Hezbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah, is an Iran-backed Shiite terror group which regularly threatens to launch thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and communities, as it did during the Second Lebanon War with the Jewish state in 2006.
The US move angered Palestinians and was rebuked by many other countries as well as the United Nations.
“After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate,” Pompeo told reporters, the United States had concluded that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”
“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said.
Even though the US decision was largely symbolic, it was seen by some as possibly aimed at giving a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after he was unable to form a coalition government following the recent elections.
The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. This is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory. Israel rejects the position that the territories are occupied, maintaining that they were captured from Jordan in a defensive war.
Israel captured the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, in the 1967 Six Day War after 19 years of Jordanian rule, and later began settling the newly conquered territory.