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The administration of US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that Israeli control of the West Bank was indeed an “occupation,” clarifying its position after the release of a report that appeared to downplay the term, adopting language used by the government of Donald Trump.
State Department’s annual human rights report “uses the term” occupation “in the context of the current state of the West Bank,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters .
“This has been the long-standing position of previous administrations on both sides over 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” to “Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”
The first of the reports released under Biden, which was released on Tuesday, kept the same wording but said the language was not meant to express a position.
Senior State Department Human Rights official Lisa Peterson said the report generally uses geographic names and that “Israel, West Bank and Gaza” is easier and clearer to readers.
Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke precedent by visiting a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and said he disagreed with the broad international consensus that such construction is illegal, Trump reporting that Israel should be free to annex Palestinian land.
Trump also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights to Syria.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 but retains control of the airspace and borders of the crowded Hamas-ruled territory.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that the United States will not reverse Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem, but will also do more to work for an independent Palestinian state.
© 2021 AFP