The Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem has been a consistently long-running area of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Until recently the clear position was that most of the international community, including the US, considered that the Israeli settlements violate international law. However, US President Donald Trump has reversed that policy by announcing that Israeli settlements are consistent with international law.
Currently, more than one tenth of the Israeli population live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And the number of Israeli settlers who consider themselves to be the original owners of land settled by Israel has grown four times faster throughout the past 20 years.
The BBC has reported that there are more than 132 settlements inhabited by more than 400,000 Israelis in the West Bank, and 13 others in East Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 Israelis reside in them. Many settlers prefer to live there, as the Israeli regime encourages them with subsidies, and with all services provided to settlers in those areas. Last month, when the US has overturned its long-held positions by declaring it considered Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be legal under international law, thus causing profound disappointment for the Palestinian leadership, and taking the international community by surprise. The plan, according to the BBC, is consistent with Trump's vision for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, expected to be released in the near future. Palestinians have warned that if Israel extends sovereignty to settlements, it will kill the peace process.
In an attempt to overturn the US president’s recently adopted policy towards the Israeli settlements, the US Congress adopted a few days ago, the 326 resolution which stresses the importance of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by adopting the two states solution. The resolution was supported by 226 members of the US Congress, and opposed by 188.
The Congress passed this resolution just a few days after Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told his supporters that he had discussed unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as well as annexing the Jordan Valley.
On his side, the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, said Congress’s resolution represents a blow to Trump’s attempts to legitimise illegal settlements and annexation. “We must work to stop Israel’s violations of international law, and destruction of the two states solution. We demanded concrete steps from the international community to prevent the US and Israel from continuing to violate international law,” Erekat said, while arguing that settlement expansion prevented the peace process, as it hinders the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. “Israeli construction in and around east Jerusalem impedes Palestinians’ free access between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank,” he added.
Meanwhile, political analysts believe that according to Time’s website, this shift in US policy opens the way for Israel’s annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories. This is what the Israeli right-wing, which is one of the strongest supporters of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is calling for, as they consider the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of their historic homeland. The new US attitude creates problems for other foreign countries that have been acting on the basis of the internationally agreed structure of a two state solution for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Vox news reported that most international lawyers believe the settlements violates the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of populations into occupied territories. For more than two decades, the international community has been exerting tremendous efforts towards a two-state solution, in order to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The United Nations, along with European Union, have been warned against Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, as it undermines the possibility of reaching this solution.
At the same time, the US’s Arab allies supports Congress’s resolution, though it is not legally binding, as it is the only solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which can both ensure Israel's survival as a secure state, and fulfill the legitimate aspirations for a Palestinian state. Political analyst, Basem Abu Somia, pointed out, Congress’s resolution is a positive step, towards defying Trump’s US policy towards Israeli settlement, but which also requires strong advocacy and support by the international community. “The Congress issued its resolution now as the US presidential elections are approaching, and many believe that after three years of Donald Trump’s policy of insults and antics, US’s alliances are under enormous strain,” argued Abu Somia.