Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

On Monday, in a move that reversed more than 40 years of U.S. policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal. This latest gift from the Trump administration to the Israeli right is inconsistent with international law, United Nations resolutions and positions adopted by the rest of the international community. Although it has no legal validity, the decision undermines the most fundamental precepts of international law, including the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force. This will undoubtedly have far-reaching and global consequences.

Pompeo’s reckless announcement threatens to normalize and encourage Israeli war crimes and expansionism, while emboldening other states with expansionist agendas to take steps that would further unravel the world order. It is an overt green light for Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory and the permanent denial of the Palestinian people’s rights to freedom and self-determination.

The issue of settlements is not some abstract or theoretical legal argument. Israel’s illegal settlement regime has had dire consequences on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians. It is the single greatest obstacle to the realization of the two-state formula, which has been the centerpiece of international peacemaking efforts — however feeble — for decades.

Today, roughly 700,000 Israeli settlers live illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in more than 200 settlements and so-called outposts. Settlements are strategically located to isolate Palestinian cities, towns and villages, sever East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and take control of vital natural resources, including water.

Thousands of acres of private Palestinian land have been stolen or destroyed in order to make way for settlements and the roads and infrastructure that connect them. The regime has de facto control over nearly 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, and has separated Palestinian families from each other and Palestinian farmers from their land. Entire communities have been imprisoned behind a matrix of walls and Israeli-only roads, military bases and checkpoints.

At the same time, Israeli settlers have violently attacked and terrorized the Palestinians whose land they are stealing, destroying their olive trees and other property, often while under the protection of heavily armed Israeli soldiers. The new policy adopted by the Trump administration endorses this cruel reality.

Monday’s announcement is just the latest shot in the war that President Trump and his senior advisers have been waging against the Palestinian people and our rights. This relentless political and economic assault has included cutting desperately needed humanitarian aid, attempting to undermine the legal rights of Palestinian refugees, closing down the Palestinian representative office in Washington and recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem — all while denying the very existence of the occupation itself.

Given that members of the Trump administration’s so-called peace team, including Jared Kushner, are longtime supporters of Israeli settlements, Trump’s attempts to legitimize settlements do not come as a complete surprise. Still, the arrogance, lack of forethought and disregard for the potential consequences are shocking. The announcement might deflect attention from internal troubles facing Trump and pander to his ideological base. But the move should raise serious concerns around the world about the administration’s agenda and disruptive role in world politics.

The fact remains that this administration has neither the right nor the agency to rewrite international law to suit its own biases and ideologies. Endorsing the results of crimes, such as the construction of settlements, amounts to complicity. It is unacceptable and unconscionable.

Despite these obstacles, the Palestinian people will stay the course toward freedom. We will not relent nor abdicate our rights to freedom, dignity, justice and independence. But for us to succeed, we need principled voices committed to international law and universal human rights to stand tall and take action.

The time has come for all those who claim they wish to see a true and lasting peace in the region to confront Israel and its supporters in the Trump administration. They must apply concrete pressure to hold Israel accountable for its pervasive violations of international law, and confront the Trump administration’s alliance with the Israeli settler agenda. Responsible nations should take collective action that meets the level of threat that these governments pose to the international order and world peace. Empty words of condemnation are not enough.

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