U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce on Monday the United States is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a Trump administration official said.
Pompeo is expected to say the administration of President Donald Trump will no longer abide by a 1978 State Department legal opinion that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law,” according to the official. The move is likely to be welcomed by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to anger the Palestinians, as well as other countries seeking to resolve the Middle East conflict.
The expected announcement – Pompeo was due to speak to reporters at 2:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) – would be the third major instance in which the Trump administration has sided with Israel and against stances taken by the Palestinians and Arab states.
In 2017 Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and, in 2018, the United States formally opened an embassy in the city. U.S. policy had previously been that the status of Jerusalem was to be decided by the parties to the conflict.
And in March, Trump recognized Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights in a boost for Netanyahu that prompted a sharp response from Syria, which once held the strategic land.
Trump’s move might have been designed to help Netanyahu as he struggles to stay in power. Israeli politics is deadlocked after two inconclusive elections this year. Former military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged neck and neck with Netanyahu following a September vote, and both leaders have struggled to put together a ruling coalition.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Giles Elgood