(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli settlements are “inconsistent with international law,” putting new pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reversing a Trump-era argument that construction in Palestinian territory could go ahead.

Blinken’s remarks Friday at a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, marked a return to a 1978 finding by the State Department’s legal adviser that also found the settlements violate the Geneva Conventions. In 2019, former President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, announced the US was abandoning the 1978 decision, saying it “hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.”

“Our administration maintains firm opposition to settlement expansion,” Blinken said Friday. “In our judgment, this only weakens, it doesn’t strengthen, Israel’s security.” 

He added that new settlements are “inconsistent with international law,” language that’s drawn directly from the 1978 memo.

The conclusion marks a fresh break from Netanyahu for President Joe Biden’s administration, which has grown increasingly concerned about the high civilian death toll of Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip in the months since Hamas militants launched an attack on Oct 7. Biden has also sought to restrain settler violence in the West Bank. 

“We are simply reaffirming the fundamental conclusion that these settlements are inconsistent with international law,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday. “This is a position that has been consistent over a range of Republican and Democratic administrations. If there’s an administration that is being inconsistent, it was the previous one.”

Biden has called on Netanyahu to hold off the next stage of military action in Gaza, aimed at the city of Rafah in south, until he can provide a clear plan to help civilians. Earlier this month, Biden signed an executive order allowing the US to impose sanctions on settlers and officials involved in violence against Palestinians.

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