The Biden administration clarified that it considers the West Bank to be occupied territory, but ducked a question as to whether it held that settlements were illegal.
“It is a historical fact that Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights after the 1967 War,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
The issue was raised after the Biden administration published the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on Tuesday. It is the first of the annual reports released since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
The report affirmed steps taken by the previous administration of Donald Trump, which had both recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
It also kept in place a description change made to the report by former president Trump, in which he replaced the phrase “Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories” with “Israel, West Bank and Gaza.”
But within the report, the Biden administration reintroduced the word “occupied” to describe Israel’s capture of territory during the 1967 Six Day War.
When quizzed by a reporter as to whether the US considered that Israel occupied the West Bank, Price affirmed that it did.
“In fact, the 2020 Human Rights Report does use the term ‘occupation’ in the context of the current status of the West Bank,” Price said. “This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades.”
Israel has long argued that the West Bank does not meet the standard of “occupied” territory, because it captured the area from Jordan, whose sovereignty there from 1948-1967 was not recognized legally, and which itself was considered to be occupying it.
Prior to the 1948 War of Independence, the territory was administered by the British Mandate and before World War I, it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
The Trump administration believed that Israel had historic and religious rights to portions of that territory, and did not refer to it as “occupied.” Its top officials agreed with the Israeli Right that the proper term was Judea and Samaria and not the West Bank, terminology linked to the time when the territory was under Jordanian rule and going back centuries.
Trump also changed US policy toward West Bank settlements, rejecting a 1978 memo by then-US State Department legal adviser Herbert J. Hansell declaring that the settlements were illegal, instead saying that they were not inconsistent with Israeli law.
The UN holds that Israel’s settlements are illegal, and that the West Bank is occupied Palestinian territory.
The Biden administration has yet to clarify its stance on the settlements, although it is presumed to support a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines.
At Wednesday’s news conference, a reporter asked Price: “Does the US consider, for example, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be illegal as a result of this stance?”
Price responded that the US position had not changed, but he clarified that stance in his own way.
“We – as you have heard me say before – we continue to encourage all sides to avoid actions – both sides, I should say – to avoid actions that would put the two-state solution further out of reach.
“Again, our ultimate goal here is to facilitate – to help bring about – a two-state solution because it is the best path to preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state, while bestowing on the Palestinians their legitimate aspirations of sovereignty and dignity in a state of their own,” he said.
These lines are often his and other Biden official’s standard response to many questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
HD Editor’s Note: Why Is This News Biblically Relevant?
Hal Lindsey, in his article, “To Whom Does the Land of Israel Belong?”, explained that that the land of Israel, according to international and Biblical law, unequivocally gives the Jewish people full right to their land:
In recent years, Israel has been depicted in the media as a rogue state, flaunting international law by allowing Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. But that simply isn’t true. International law gives them clear rights to all of the land. They are willing to negotiate with Palestinians and give up part of that land. But it isn’t something required by international law. It is a possible political solution to an ongoing political problem.
Not everyone accepts the authority of the Bible. But those people can simply look to international law and see the rights of the Jews to the Holy Land.
For those who believe the Bible, this issue shouldn’t even be a question. God gave title deed to the Holy Land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He reaffirmed it again and again. In this case, there’s no conflict between international law and God’s law. If you say you believe the Bible, it should be obvious. God gave the Holy Land to the Jews forever!
Jeremiah 30:3 KJV – “For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.”