Palestine Update 425
Palestinian’s as pawns in Western Foreign Policy
What Biden can do about the Israeli-Palestinian mess he’ll inherit
As if finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict weren’t difficult enough, the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government seem hell-bent on making this already bad situation even worse. Sensing that the Trump era will soon be over, members of his team and the Israelis are racing against the clock to implement new “facts on the ground” that will, they hope, permanently alter the political landscape in Israel’s favor.
Blame for this state of affairs belongs to successive US administrations, all of which have been, to varying degrees, complicit in Israel’s acquisitiveness. For decades, the United States turned a blind eye or neglected to take effective measures to restrain Israel’s settlement expansion in Palestinian lands. They sinned by omission. The pro-settlement agenda pursued by the Trump administration, however, has amounted to a more grievous sin of commission.
The past two decades of failed policies created a number of deformities that make the future of a two-state solution difficult to even envision. The territories that were to have been dedicated to the future Palestinian State have been cut into pieces by settlements, infrastructure, and Jewish-only roads connecting them to each other and Israel proper.
Years of US enabling and coddling of the settlement enterprise has so emboldened Israeli hard-liners that politics in that country have moved dramatically rightward while the peace camp has shrunk to a tiny fraction of Israel’s political map. As a result, it is impossible to see how any coalition government could emerge in coming years that would be willing to make a peace with Palestinians that would include a sovereign, contiguous, and viable Palestinian State.
At the same time, US acquiescence to Israel’s disgraceful, abusive treatment of the Palestinians has weakened the credibility of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, while empowering and emboldening Hamas’s consolidation of power in the Gaza Strip. And finally, the erratic, often incoherent, and always pro-Israel US policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict discredited the US role as the main party responsible for brokering a just peace. This is true not only for the Palestinians but for much of the rest of the world as well.
These, then, are the main challenges to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will confront the incoming Biden administration. It must address: the territorial, political, and economic issues created by Israel’s massive settlement expansion; the consolidation of power by the far right in Israel; the dysfunction that has come to define the Palestinian polity; and the lack of trust in Washington’s discredited “go it alone” approach to peacemaking. What follows are some steps the Biden administration could take to begin to set things right. As a first step, it must put muscle behind the Democratic Party platform pledges to oppose Israeli settlement construction and any moves toward annexation (including the “creeping annexation” involved in seizures of Palestinian land and home demolitions). To ensure that the US opposition is seen as credible, the new administration will need to revisit the country’s reluctance to hold Israel accountable for any violations. This will inevitably require a reassessment of the platform’s rejection of conditioning US assistance used in any expansionist activities.
The EU has played a waiting game to Israel’s advantage
by Ramona Wadi*
There are a couple of meaningful things that the EU should do, without delay: it should drop the pretence that it supports the Palestinian people’s right to their own land, and it should clarify the purpose of its diplomacy, which is to safeguard the two-state rhetoric. EU representatives visited Givat Hamatos, a site between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank which has been approved for settlement expansion. Feigning concern, the EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell fluctuated between “It remains the EU’s firm position that settlements are illegal under international law” and a warning that settlement activity will “lead to the continuing weakening of efforts to rebuild trust and confidence between the parties which is necessary for an eventual resumption of meaningful negotiations. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh is concerned about US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to a colonial settlement in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. He calls the visit a means to “legitimize the settlements.”
The PA has missed the finer details of Israel’s colonial land grab in its bid to appease the international community. Now it is looking at the finishing touches of Zionist colonization as if the previous “dangerous precedents”, were of lesser concern. Legitimizing settlements is definitely in violation of international law. So is settlement expansion, which is what created Israel and allowed it to grow physically. The PA has not yet come to terms with, or it refuses to consider, the fact that the international community has legitimized Israel, and that its own continued adherence to the two-state compromise facilitates this travesty of legitimacy. If the US is setting a dangerous precedent, the PA should be concerned that the EU is not opposing it. In August, the Council of the European Union issued a statement welcoming “the announcement of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and acknowledges the constructive role played by the US in this respect.” The EU also called the temporary halting of annexation “a positive step”. All of the alleged policy disagreements between the US and the EU, or the UN for that matter, were thus revealed to be a sham that is already starting to unravel even before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Israel may be availing itself of the presidential transition period. However, Zionist colonization does not need a transition period, given the adaptability of the international community to legitimize its actions. If Pompeo’s visit seeks to legitimize settlements, why did the EU limit the scope of its visit to the perfunctory and predictable statements which have no political influence over Israel, but which will condition the Palestinian people to yet another territorial loss? If the EU did not oppose Trump at a time when international public opinion was largely shifting in favor of Palestine, particularly after details of the “deal of the century” were revealed, it is highly unlikely that the bloc will oppose the US now, when a Biden presidency so far suggests that we can expect a return to Obama-era diplomacy.
Will the PA at least admit its acquiescence with one of the most farcical periods of “waiting” which the international community forced upon the Palestinian people? The EU has played this waiting game to Israel’s advantage. Wake up, Mr. Shtayyeh.
Pompeo in Israel: Three announcements that cement ‘apartheid’
Here are three key takeaways from Pompeo’s announcements:
Penalising boycott of settlements.
Pompeo directed the State Department’s special envoy to combat antisemitism to identify organisations that oppose trade “with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel”. Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), said the move was unprecedented in US policy. “This is brand new ground. There’s nothing comparable to it.” Friedman told MEE that most organisations would not be able to certify that they don’t distinguish between settlements and Israel. “There are global NGOs that work around the world – and consistent with international law, with EU policy, with the values of human rights and civil rights, they differentiate between Israel and settlements,” she said. “If this policy is implemented as it’s articulated by the State Department, it means that those organisations will not be able to be partners with the US anywhere in the world.”…
‘Made in Israel’.
In keeping with the effort to obscure the distinction between Israel and the Palestinian territories that it controls, Pompeo said the labelling of exports from the West Bank will adhere to the US administration’s “reality-based foreign policy approach”. Not all settlement products will be made in Israel, but all exports from the West Bank’s Area C – whether made by Palestinians or Israelis – will be branded as such.“Labeling the products of Area C as being part of Israel is almost the last nail in the coffin of the opposition to annexation,” Kuttab added….Friedman said Pompeo’s statement, in effect, annexes both the land and the people who live in Area C. “This is essentially the US recognising Israeli sovereignty and Area C – all of it.”… “Palestinians living in Area C do not enjoy the same rights as Jewish Israelis in Area C – let alone Israelis inside Israel. Full stop. They live under a different legal regime. That is apartheid,” Friedman said. “At the same time, we still have a position which says: If you are someone who believes in one state from the river to the sea with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians, you’re an antisemite and you’re anti-Israel.”
Separating the West Bank from Gaza.
In the same statement about labelling exports from Israel-Palestine, Pompeo ordered that Palestinian products from Areas A and B must be labelled separately from Palestinian products from Gaza. Kuttab said the move aims to dismiss the idea of distinguishable Palestinian territories in the land in order to push for “the total erasure of the Palestinian identity”
Bob Goodfellow, the Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, issued the below statement:
“The Department of State’s targeting of groups advocating for using peaceful means, such as boycotts, to end human rights violations against Palestinians as anti-Semitic violates freedom of expression and is a gift to those who seek to silence, harass, intimidate and oppress those standing up for human rights around the world. This is simply the latest attack from a US government determined to undermine the universality of human rights and the global fight against racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism. Advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected. Advocates of boycotts should be allowed to express their views freely and take forward their campaigns without harassment, threats of prosecution or criminalization, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression. Instead of attacking and restricting BDS activities the US should end such measures and instead ensure that BDS advocates are free to express their views and take forward their campaigns without harassment or threats of prosecution. The US administration is following Israeli government’s approach in using false and politically motivated accusations of anti-Semitism to harm peaceful activists, including human rights defenders, and shield from accountability those responsible for illegal actions that harm people in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and here at home. The process comes across as particularly hypocritical and deceitful coming from an administration that has emboldened neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other groups who advocate violence and discrimination, shown a callous disregard for international law, and favored Israeli policies that result in institutionalized discrimination and systematic human rights violations against millions of Palestinians.”
Peace in Palestine cannot be achieved amid unlawful demolitions
“Displace and replace” is the deeply exclusionary logic Israel has operated on since its inception. The efforts to displace Palestinians to make way for Israeli settlers is also intertwined with the well-established Israeli project to achieve and maintain ethnic purity. Thus, despite hopes held by some that US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Abraham Accords” might halt Israel’s anticipated annexation of large swaths of the West Bank, recently there has been an alarming spike in house demolitions in East Jerusalem and across the illegally occupied West Bank….Rather than holding Israel to account for its ongoing colonization of Palestine, the international community’s most powerful actors are choosing to justify and rationalize its crimes against Palestinians. As a result, Israeli policies that blatantly violate human rights and international law are starting to be perceived as “normal” and even “righteous”. Colonization is one of the most easily recognized forms of oppression in the world. However, to this day, the international community never truly acknowledged the colonial nature of Israel’s occupation and allowed it to violate international law with impunity. Thus, Israel continues its expansion into what is left of Palestine, undermining a fundamental principle of international law that bans states from taking land by force.