US confirms it considers West Bank as under Israeli ‘occupation’

The State Department’s 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 told reporters.
Thursday 01/04/2021
A Palestinian demonstrator argues with an Israeli soldier during a protest against visits by Israeli settlers, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 31, 2021. (REUTERS)
A Palestinian demonstrator argues with an Israeli soldier during a protest against visits by Israeli settlers, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 31, 2021. (REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden’s administration said Wednesday that Israel’s control of the West Bank is indeed “occupation,” clarifying its stance after the release of a report that seemed to downplay the term, adopting language used by Donald Trump’s government.

The US State Department’s 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 told reporters.

“This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades,” he said.

But under the staunchly pro-Israel Trump, the annual human rights report renamed the section on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” as “Israel, West Bank and Gaza.”

The first of the reports issued under Biden, which was released Tuesday, kept the same formulation but stated that the language was not meant to convey any position.

The top State Department official on human rights, Lisa Peterson, said that the report generally uses geographical names and that “Israel, West Bank and Gaza” was easier and clearer for readers.

Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, broke past precedent by visiting a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and said he disagreed with the broad international consensus that such construction is illegal, with Trump signalling that Israel should be free to annex Palestinian land.

State Department spokesman Ned Price says US still calls West Bank and Gaza “occupied territories” (AP)
State Department spokesman Ned Price says US still calls West Bank and Gaza “occupied territories” (AP)

Trump also recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as well as Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 but maintains control over the crowded, Hamas-ruled territory’s airspace and borders.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated the United States will not reverse Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem but will also do more to work toward an independent Palestinian state and providing aid to the Palestinians.

This February US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israel’s foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi  that the new US administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution.

Blinken “emphasised the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.