A UN independent human rights expert on Tuesday condemned the U.S. policy shift on the settlement issue in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“This is not a step towards peace or justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory.
He said the decision was “undermining the rules-based international order.”
“The American government’s decision to jettison international law and to legitimize the illegal Israeli settlements is probably the very last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.”
The U.S. on Monday reversed course on its position regarding Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank, breaking with over four decades of precedent in saying that they will no longer be viewed as illegal "per se."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move away from the State Department's 1978 legal opinion which held that settlements are "inconsistent with international law.”
Pompeo said the opinion does not further the peace process and Washington will no longer take a position on their legality. He said their establishment "is not per se inconsistent with international law."
"Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn't worked, it hasn't advanced the cause of peace," Pompeo said in remarks to reporters.
"The hard truth is there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace."
Roughly 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live on more than 100 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians want these territories along with the Gaza Strip for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.