Published: 2021-03-31 11:51
Last Updated: 2021-04-12 13:00
The administration of US President Joe Biden, in its annual human rights report released on Tuesday, refrained from explicitly describing the West Bank as an "occupied land" by the Israeli Occupation, following the example of the administration of former President Donald Trump, which abandoned this description in its previous reports.
Until Trump assumed power in 2017, the US State Department, in its annual report on the human rights situation in the world, devoted a chapter to "Israel and the Occupied Territories," but this title changed in 2018 to "Israel and the West Bank and Gaza," which is the same phrase that was mentioned in the report released Tuesday.
In 2018, the majority of observers read the semantic change as an indication of the Republic's desire to align with the Hebrew state, a matter that was soon confirmed by Trump's recognition of Occupied Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli Occupation, and then of Israeli Occupation sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, as well as his decision not to consider the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as a violation of international law.
Observers wondered whether this first report in the Biden era - which covers the year 2020 - would return to previous wording, or keep the wording of the Trump administration.
The new American president is defending the two-state solution and has tried to partially distance himself from his predecessor's policies on the Middle East conflict.
The US State Department made sure in its Tuesday report to include a paragraph explaining that the words used to describe the Israeli Occupation and the Palestinian territories “do not reflect a position on any of the final status issues that will be negotiated by the parties to the conflict, especially the limits of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state. "
It added that "this part of the report covers Israel... as well as the Golan Heights and the lands of East Jerusalem that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war."
The report stated that "the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017 and Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019."
In response to a question about the reason that prompted the administration not to return to the wording that was approved before 2018, Lisa Peterson, the official in charge of human rights at the State Department, explained that American diplomats preferred to adhere to geographic determinants only.
"This is in line with our general practices," she told reporters. "We also believe that it is clearer and more useful for readers seeking information on human rights in these areas."