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Israel’s PM visits West Bank to mark US backing for settlements

World News | Published:

Benjamin Netanyahu made his visit after the US reversed four decades of policy.

Israel

Israel’s prime minister travelled to the West Bank to celebrate the US’s announcement that it does not consider Israeli settlements to violate international law.

Benjamin Netanyahu called the Trump administration’s declaration, which stepped back from four decades of US policy and reversed the policies of President Barack Obama, a “huge achievement” that “fixed a historic wrong”.

“I think it is a great day for the state of Israel and an achievement that will remain for decades,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu spoke at a gathering of ecstatic supporters and settler leaders in Alon Shvut, a settlement outside of Jerusalem.

Israeli right-wing leaders welcomed US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s announcement.

Although it is largely symbolic, it fuelled calls from settler supporters for increased construction or even the annexation of parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinians, who claim the West Bank as part of a future state, condemned the decision.

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Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with heads of Israeli settlement authorities (Menahem Kenaha/AP)

They and other countries said the move undercuts any chances of a broader peace deal.

Over 400,000 settlers now live in the West Bank, in addition to more than 200,000 settlers in east Jerusalem, the Palestinian’s hoped-for capital.

The Palestinians and the international community say that settlements are illegal and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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Travel Stock – Israel
A general view of the Old City of Jerusalem (Adam Davy/PA)

Israel says the fate of the settlements should be determined in negotiations.

The head of the Arab League joined the large number of critics, condemning the Trump administration’s latest decision “in the strongest terms”.

The league’s secretary-general, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said the decision would result in “more violence and cruelty” against the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli settlers and “undermines any possibility” of achieving peace.

The White House says it has developed a Mideast peace plan, but it has not yet unveiled it.

The Palestinians already have rejected the plan, accusing the US of unfair bias in favour of Israel.

The Trump administration has made a number of moves in favour of Israel, recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, recognising Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and closing the Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington.

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