KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today chided Washington for backing Israel to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, slamming the move as absurd and which amounts to land grab.
The prime minister and vocal critic of Israel said the US’ stance, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was a blatant disregard of international laws and several United Nations resolutions.
“We are no longer safe. If a country wants to enter our country and build their settlements, that is legal.
“We cannot do anything,” Dr Mahathir said through a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The announcement by Pompeo was seen by some a victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to remain in power after two inconclusive Israeli elections this year, and a defeat for the Palestinians.
Dr Mahathir’s expressed his fears of the remark’s timing, saying it will only further embolden the Israeli forces after it was accused of killing sprees in Gaza, with reports citing children as among the victims of the casualties.
This is despite the views of several pundits who said such a position taken by the US would deliver a “new blow” to the Trump administration’s efforts in resolving the Israeli-Palestine conflict through a peace plan, something that has been in the works for more than two years.
“You announce that their illegal settlements are not illegal at a time they are conducting unjustified attacks on Gaza.
“Isn’t it like encouraging them to continue to murder the children and civilians and that they will not be punished?” Dr Mahathir asked.
He also said US’ decision is akin to rewarding such violence and for setting up settlements on the land of the people they had killed and murdered.
Palestinians argued the US stance flouted international law. The international community views the transfer of any country’s civilians to occupied land as illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and UN Security Council resolutions.
The announcement marked the third major instance in which the Trump administration has sided with Israel and against Palestinians and Arab positions.
In 2017, President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and, in 2018, the United States formally opened an embassy there. US policy had previously been that Jerusalem's status was to be decided by the parties to the conflict.
And in March, Trump recognised Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria in a boost for Netanyahu that prompted a sharp response from Damascus.