TEL AVIV – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday slammed 106 House Democrats in a letter for their “foolish” fixation on seeing Israeli settlements as a barrier to peace.
The secretary of state addressed the letter to Michigan Rep. Andy Levin in response to his demand that the Trump administration renege on its declaration that it does not view West Bank settlements as a contravention of international law. Levin’s letter was co-signed by 106 Democrats, including the so-called Squad composed of Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In his own letter, Pompeo decried the Democrats “foolish positions” and contested the Democratic claim that categorizing Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal was the U.S.’s long-established view.
“You criticize the State Department’s determination that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not categorically inconsistent with international law — a decision which you contend reverses ‘decades of bipartisan U.S. policy on Israeli settlements,’” wrote Pompeo.
“You further argue, in conclusory fashion, that this determination ‘blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’ While I appreciate your interest in this important issue, I could not disagree more with those two foolish positions.”
Pompeo noted that only the Obama and Carter administrations viewed the settlements as illegal, and went on to say that the former’s “departure from America’s historical support of Israel has done nothing to make peace more attainable.”
Ronald Reagan, Pompeo noted, reversed Carter’s decision.
“The State Department’s determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements,” he added. “Rather, the State Department reversed a legal determination by secretary Kerry made during the waning days of the Obama administration, that the establishment of settlements was categorically inconsistent with international law.”
“That determination was made in a failed attempt to justify the Obama administration’s betrayal of Israel in allowing UNSCR 2334 — whose foundation was the purported illegality of the settlements and which referred to them as ‘a flagrant violation of international law’ — to pass the Security Council on December 23, 2016,” Pompeo’s letter stated.
“While you are free to fixate on settlements as a barrier to peace, you are simply wrong in referring to that view as being subject to bipartisan agreement,” the secretary of state wrote.
Pompeo quoted prominent Democrat and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer as saying in 2018, “It is sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman welcomed Pompeo’s letter.
“In his response to the 106 congressmen, Secretary Pompeo lays to rest the criticism that the Administration’s determination with regard to Israeli settlements was contrary to law or inconsistent with bipartisan policy,” he said. “Indeed, the administration’s decision, in reversing secretary Kerry’s unfortunate statement in support of UNSCR 2334, restores the United States to its historic and appropriate role in mediating the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”