In a reversal of the Trump administration’s stance on the matter, President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday said that Israel does indeed “occupy” the West Bank.
The State Department’s newly released annual report on human rights “does use the term ‘occupation’ in the context of the current status of the West Bank,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
“This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades,” he said.
In 2018, the Trump administration renamed the section on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” as “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.” The move came after then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman reportedly asked the State Department to stop referring to the West Bank as occupied.
A year later, as reported by Breitbart News, the State Department again deleted the word “occupation” in reference to the West Bank in its annual country report on global human rights.
The new report released Tuesday did not change the language used by the Trump administration, which raised questions about whether the Biden administration was adopting its predecessor’s policy.
The head of the State Department’s human rights department, Lisa Peterson, said that “Israel, West Bank and Gaza” was an easier term to understand geographically.
In November 2019, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. no longer views Israeli settlements as a violation of international law – breaking with decades of U.S. policy. He was also the first Secretary of State to visit a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
In October 2017, then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended a business forum in an official capacity in the West Bank settlement town of Ariel, the first such visit from a U.S. government representative.
Altering the U.S. stance on the West Bank, known by Israelis by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria, was among the slew of pro-Israel decisions adopted by the Trump administration, which included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy there as well, as recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.