The United States has come under strong opposition from UN Security Council members to the Trump administration's declaration that it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be in violation of international law.
Monday's announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reversed a four-decade-old US position on Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Special Coordinator of the peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, told the Security Council on Wednesday that the position of the UN remains that settlement activity is a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to a peaceful solution.
He went on to affirm the importance of holding credible Palestinian elections. “A whole generation’s voice for the future has yet to be heard,” he said, describing intra-Palestinian division as “a cancer eating away at the aspiration for statehood, peace and the commitment to democracy.”
British Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce stressed that her delegation’s position on settlements has not changed.
Speaking on behalf of five European countries - UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland — she reiterated in a joint statement that “all settlement activity is illegal under international law.”
The Europeans called on Israel “to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power,” saying such activity “erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace.”
They also reiterated concern “about the calls for a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank.”
Only Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, who is not a Council member, spoke in support of the US action, saying it “rights a historical wrong.”
He also called the criticism an “obstacle to peace” that is “preventing direct negotiations” between Israelis and Palestinians.
Cherith Norman Chalet, a deputy US ambassador, repeated Pompeo’s announcement on settlements, which repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion holding that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”
She stressed that “this complex political problem” can be resolved only through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“The US government is expressing no view on the particular legal status of any individual settlement, nor are we addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank — that is for Israelis and Palestinians to decide,” Chalet said.