by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by AFP
PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has strongly condemned the US reversal on Israel’s settlements, describing it as dangerous and victimising Palestinians further.
“It was a blatant disregard of international laws and multiple United Nations (UN) resolutions.
“We are no longer safe. If a country wants to enter our country and build their settlements, that is legal. We cannot do anything,” Dr Mahathir said in a statement yesterday.
He said this in light of the view by the US President Donald Trump’s administration that the settlements in the West Bank are not illegal.
According to several UN Security Council resolutions, Israeli settlements are illegal as they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from transferring its population to the area it occupies.
The settlements, occupied by over 600,000 Israelis, are also considered as a major obstacle to a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, while some three million Palestinians live there.
US Secretary Mike Pompeo announced yesterday the administration was softening its views on the occupied West Bank, no longer abiding the 1978 State Department legal opinion that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law”.
It was reported that he said the administration has “carefully studied all sides of the legal debate”, before arriving to the conclusion.
Dr Mahathir said the announcement that caused international outrage might further encourage the Israeli forces, which has been reported to be on a killing spree in Gaza, including children among the casualties.
“You announce that their illegal settlements are not illegal at a time when they are conducting these unjustified attacks on Gaza…Isn’t it like encouraging them to continue to murder the children and civilians and that they will not be punished?
“Instead, they will be rewarded with setting up settlements on the land of the people they had killed and murdered,” he said.
It was reported that Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said the move “contradicts totally with international law”.
He further said in a statement the administration is “not qualified or authorised to cancel the resolutions of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement”.
Similarly, Palestinian veteran negotiator and Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee member Dr Hanan Ashrawi tweeted that the move was “another blow to international law, justice and peace”.
“Although Pompeo’s announcement is not unexpected, it is no less outrageous and horrific.
“Such irresponsible messianic fundamentalist policies are a threat to humanity as a whole!,” she tweeted.
She added in a statement the settlements are a grave violation of international law, including international humanitarian law.
“They also constitute a war crime according to the Rome Statute. These are solid facts that the Trump administration cannot alter or unravel.
“This announcement reaffirms Palestine’s assessment that the Trump administration is a threat to international peace and security because it is a partner in Israeli crimes and provides political cover for its pervasive violations,” she said.
Trump had recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, and the US formally opened an embassy in the city by 2018.
In the same year, the US also announced that it would be reducing its contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.