US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote a letter to Democratic members of the House who previously criticised the Trump administration's policy shift on Israeli settlements, attacking what the senior official called the critics' "foolish positions".
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, Pompeo sent the letter to Michigan Representative Andy Levin, who helped organise the letter sent last month in the name of 106 representatives urging Pompeo to reverse a decision to no longer see Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal.
Responding to Levin, Pompeo attacked the argument that the announcement contradicted decades of bipartisan US policy and disregarded the Fourth Geneva Convention as "foolish positions".
"The State Department's determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements," Pompeo claimed.
Rather, he continued, "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."
Pompeo added: "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."
The US Secretary of State stressed that the Trump administration is approaching the issue "pragmatically and diplomatically", but "eschew[ing] the erroneous positions of international law that have gained favour in the past decades".
According to Pompeo, "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."
Levin responded by saying Pompeo's criticism "simply distorts history", adding: "My colleagues and I continue to stand on the side of truth and peace."
"It is my sincere hope that the Trump Administration will act to protect the safety and rights of Israelis and Palestinians and reconsider their dangerous settlement policy," he concluded.