JERUSALEM, Israel - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted House Democrats on Monday in response to a letter they sent last month expressing "strong disagreement" with the Trump Administration's decision to not consider Israeli settlement communities illegal according to international law per se.
The letter signed by 106 House Democrats, including Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accused the administration of "ignoring international law" and "undermin [ing] America's moral standing."
"If the US unilaterally abandons international and human rights law, we can only expect a more chaotic and brutal twenty-first century for Americans and our allies, including the Israeli people," the letter read.
The lawmakers urged Pompeo to "immediately" reverse the decision. Instead, he called their arguments "foolish" in a letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
Pompeo argues that the decision was not a reversal in US policy towards Israel, but a rejection of how the Obama Administration and previous Secretary of State John Kerry interpreted the law.
"The State Department's determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements," he said. "Rather, the State Department reversed a legal determination by secretary Kerry made during the waning days of the Obama administration, that the establishment of settlements was categorically inconsistent with international law."
"That determination was made in a failed attempt to justify the Obama administration's betrayal of Israel in allowing UNSCR 2334 – whose foundation was the purported illegality of the settlements and which referred to them as 'a flagrant violation of international law' – to pass the Security Council on December 23, 2016," Pompeo's letter continued.
He also argued that House Democrats were wrong in asserting that the Obama Administration's opinion on Israeli settlements was widely accepted among lawmakers.
"While you are free to fixate on settlements as a barrier to peace, you are simply wrong in referring to that view as being subject to bipartisan agreement," Pompeo wrote.
Instead, he said the Trump administration's decision is a step towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
"The State Department's recent determination that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se illegal is an important step in the peace process, and we are confident that it creates the right platform for further progress," Pompeo argued.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said he supports Pompeo's criticism of Democrats and believes the settlement decision "restores the United States to its historic and appropriate role in mediating the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians."