As under Trump, US report avoids "Occupied Territories"

31.03.2021

US President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday held off using the term "Occupied Territories" in an annual human rights report, a formulation abandoned by staunchly pro-Israel predecessor Donald Trump.

Under Trump, the State Department's reports on human rights starting with the edition released in 2018 have listed "Israel, West Bank and Gaza" and not "Israel and the Occupied Territories" – a semantic shift seen as rejecting the international consensus that Israel is an occupying force.

For the first report under Biden, which covers events in 2020, the State Department did not revert to earlier language but downplayed the significance.

"Language in this report is not meant to convey a position on any final status issues to be negotiated between the parties to the conflict, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the borders between Israel and any future Palestinian state," it said.

Lisa Peterson, the acting top State Department official on human rights, said that the report's authors continued to believe it was better to assign geographic names.

"That's in line with our practices generally. We also believe it is clearer and more useful for readers seeking information on human rights in those specific areas," she told reporters.

Trump made the landmark move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and later backed its annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo also said the United States did not agree with the global consensus that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

Pompeo's successor under Biden, Antony Blinken, has said that the United States will keep its embassy in Jerusalem but has also called for greater efforts to support the Palestinians, including through humanitarian aid. (AFP)

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