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Israelis delight, Palestinians rage over US settlements rethink

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Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said a US statement deeming Israeli settlement not to be illegal "rights a historical wrong".

But the Palestinian Authority decried the US policy shift as "completely against international law".

Both sides were responding to an announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that Washington "no longer considers Israeli settlements to be "inconsistent with international law".

"This policy reflects an historical truth -- that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu said in a statement, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

"In fact, we are called Jews because we are the people of Judea," he said.

Until now, US policy was based, at least in theory, on a legal opinion issued by the State Department in 1978, which said that establishing of settlements in the Palestinian territories went against international law.

The spokesman for Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas said that that was still the position under international law.

Washington is "not qualified or authorised to cancel the resolutions of international law, and has no right to grant legality to any Israeli settlement," presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said in a statement.

Pompeo's statement comes as Netanyahu struggles to hold on to power after two inconclusive elections this year and with the prospect of a third looming.

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