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2020 Democrats slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements

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Several Democrats running for president in 2020 hammered the Trump administration’s Monday declaration that it will no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal, a move they said would hinder peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. 

“This decision harms the cause of diplomacy, takes us further away from the hope of a two-state solution, and will only further inflame tensions in the region. It’s not about peace or security. It is not about being pro-Israel. It is about undercutting Israel’s future in service of Trump’s personal politics,” former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign said in a statement to Jewish Insider.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a top progressive in the primary field, said she would reverse the policy if elected and rededicate the United States’ efforts to a two-state solution. 

“Another blatantly ideological attempt by the Trump administration to distract from its failures in the region. Not only do these settlements violate international law—they make peace harder to achieve,” she tweeted.

“Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal. This is clear from international law and multiple United Nations resolutions. Once again, Mr. Trump is isolating the United States and undermining diplomacy by pandering to his extremist base,” added Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), who is surging in early state polls, said the decision marked “a significant step backward in our efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a fellow veteran who served in the Middle East, said Tuesday the declaration “[threw] out four decades of US policy.” 

Other 2020 Democrats also came out against the announcement, maintaining that it was a reversal of U.S. policy that would place yet another roadblock in peace negotiations on an issue already considered a third rail of American foreign policy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the new policy Monday, marking a 1978 memorandum establishing American talking points related to Israeli civilian-settlement activity in areas occupied by Israel, which included the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Sinai in Egypt and the Golan Heights in Syria. 

“In 1978, the Carter administration categorically concluded that Israel’s establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said on Monday. “However, in 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that resolution and stated that he didn’t believe that the settlements were inherently illegal.”

“This administration agrees with President Reagan,” he added.

Israel occupied the West Bank of the Jordan Valley following the 1967 Six-Day War. There are an estimated 700,000 Israelis living in communities across the territories, land which Palestinians demand would constitute a country of their own in a potential two-state solution. Critics say settlement expansion threatens the territorial contiguity and would make forming a state of Palestine increasingly difficult.

Support for Israel has historically been a bipartisan issue, though Democrats have appeared increasingly willing to criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an activist base demands an increased focus on human rights issues.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Benjamin Netanyahu Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Mike Pompeo Pete Buttigieg Tulsi Gabbard

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