Washington (In Palestine Today)- The Biden administration returned to use the term “occupied” when referring to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem in its annual human-rights report issued by the US State Department on Wednesday.
“It is a historical fact that Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights after the 1967 war,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, in response to a question on why the US State Department held off on using the term “occupied territories” in the annual Human Rights Report, the first of the annual reports released since US President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, and whether this indicates “a type of permanent change in policy” and a “continuation of the policy under the Trump administration”.
Price added, “In fact, the 2020 Human Rights Report does use the term “occupation” in the context of the current status of the West Bank. This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades.”
Under the Trump administration, the State Department dropped the term “occupied” when referring to these territories and removed the Golan Heights from the 2018 and 2019 reports after the United States recognized Israeli sovereignty there.
That section of the report covers ‘Israel’ “within the 1949 Armistice Agreement line, as well as Golan Heights and East Jerusalem territories that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war and where it later extended its domestic law, jurisdiction and administration.”
The language, however, “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.”
The report acknowledged Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, as well as Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019.
The title also remained the same: “Israel, West Bank and Gaza.” Prior to the Trump administration, the report had used “Israel and the Occupied Territories.”
Speaking on the decision to keep the title, acting State Department official on human rights Lisa Peterson said its authors continued to believe that it was better to assign specific 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.