The U.S. Middle East peace plan may be in a coma. But that hasn’t stopped Washington from handing major diplomatic victories to Israel.
By Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer | Foreign Policy | Nov 18, 2019
‘You now have a complete package of efforts to make a traditional solution . . . to the Israeli-Palestinian problem virtually impossible, at least for the remainder of the Trump administration.’ — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar Aaron David Miller
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Monday that the United States no longer considers civilian Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands a violation of international law. The move represents a historic decision that reverses decades of U.S. policy and represents the latest in a raft of pro-Israeli moves that could effectively quash hopes for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The conclusion that we will no longer recognize as per se inconsistent with international law is based on the unique facts, history, and circumstances prevented by the establishment of civilian settlements in the West Bank,” Pompeo told reporters on Monday. He said that the decision does not mean the U.S. government is expressing views on the legal status of any individual settlement or “prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank.”
Pompeo’s statement rolls back a 1978 State Department opinion that formed the bedrock of U.S. legal opinion on Israeli settlements, asserting that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”
The decision marks the latest way in which the Trump administration has undercut Palestinian claims of statehood in favor of its closest historic ally in the Middle East, handing another political victory to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he struggles to stay afloat after failing to form a coalition government. Continue reading “Trump crushes Palestinian hopes — again”
International law has determined that the West Bank is governed as a territory captured in war, which makes it defined as a “belligerent occupation.”
By Gershon Baskin | The Jerusalem Post | Nov 20, 2019
The continuation of the settlement enterprise is Israel’s clearest expression that it is not willing to make peace with the Palestinians in any kind of equitable fashion.
I have some news for US President Donald Trump, and he may not like it, but here it is: Donald Trump is not the point of reference regarding international law. No unilateral declaration of the president or secretary of state of the United States of America can legalize the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law, they have been and will continue to be one of the main obstacles to reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It should be no surprise to anyone, but since at least 1977, when the Likud first came to power, Israeli governments have consistently stated that one of the main purposes of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, especially those in the heartland of the West Bank along the central mountain ridge, is to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. From that perspective, the Israeli settlement enterprise has been extraordinarily successful. Continue reading “Don’t legalize the illegal”
“If we abandon international law, it will be the law of the jungle.”
By Edith Lederer | AP | Nov 20, 2019
‘Israeli settlement activities are illegal, erode the viability of the two-state solution and undermine the prospect for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.’ — Joint statement from the 10 non-permanent Security Council members
In a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration, the 14 other U.N. Security Council members on Wednesday strongly opposed the U.S. announcement that it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be a violation of international law.
They warned that the new American policy undermines a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The council’s monthly Mideast meeting, just two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement, was dominated by negative reaction to the new American policy from countries representing all regions of the world who said all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. Continue reading “UN Security Council rebukes US on Israel settlements”
The administration has neither the right nor the agency to rewrite international law to suit its own biases and ideologies. Endorsing the results of crimes, such as the construction of settlements, amounts to complicity. It is unacceptable and unconscionable.
By Hanan Ashrawi | The Washington Post | Nov 20, 2019
Thousands of acres of private Palestinian land have been stolen or destroyed in order to make way for settlements and the roads and infrastructure that connect them. The regime has de facto control over nearly 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, and has separated Palestinian families from each other and Palestinian farmers from their land. Entire communities have been imprisoned behind a matrix of walls and Israeli-only roads, military bases and checkpoints.
On Monday, in a move that reversed more than 40 years of U.S. policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal. This latest gift from the Trump administration to the Israeli right is inconsistent with international law, United Nations resolutions and positions adopted by the rest of the international community. Although it has no legal validity, the decision undermines the most fundamental precepts of international law, including the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force. This will undoubtedly have far-reaching and global consequences.
Pompeo’s reckless announcement threatens to normalize and encourage Israeli war crimes and expansionism, while emboldening other states with expansionist agendas to take steps that would further unravel the world order. It is an overt green light for Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory and the permanent denial of the Palestinian people’s rights to freedom and self-determination.
The issue of settlements is not some abstract or theoretical legal argument. Israel’s illegal settlement regime has had dire consequences on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians. It is the single greatest obstacle to the realization of the two-state formula, which has been the centerpiece of international peacemaking efforts — however feeble — for decades.
The intervention will have no immediate effect on the ground but will delight evangelical American voters and may have harmful consequences.
By Staff | The Economist | Nov 19, 2019
[I]t is easy to dismiss the administration’s switch of policy as largely an empty gesture, aimed at a domestic audience, and intended mainly to appeal to the pro-Israel evangelical American voters Mr Trump will need for re-election in 2020. But it could have harmful effects in the longer term.
The announcement on November 18th by Mike Pompeo, the American secretary of state, was unscheduled but not entirely unexpected. He said that, following a legal review by the State Department, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.” This is the latest in a series of such gestures by the Trump administration over the past two years, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and accepting its sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.
Looked at more broadly, the change of policy is also wholly in tune with Donald Trump’s tendency to disregard accepted diplomatic norms. Despite some dissenting views, the wide international consensus for decades has been that the settlements Israel has built in the territories it captured in the war with Arab states in 1967 are indeed illegal. They are deemed to contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
For over four decades, this has been the view even of Israel’s allies, including most American administrations (with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s, cited by Mr Pompeo). However, Israel, undeterred, has clung to its own interpretation of international law. Over the past 52 years it has built hundreds of settlements, both in east Jerusalem, which it formally annexed in 1967, and in the wider areas of the West Bank (what Israel calls Judea and Samaria). Palestinians, and much of the rest of the world, regard these, as well as the Gaza Strip, as belonging to a future Palestinian state.
The country cannot remain Jewish and democratic while controlling the entire Holy Land.
By Staff | The Economist | Feb 2, 2019
As Palestinians lose hope for a state of their own, some favor a ‘one-state’ deal: a single state on all the land with equal rights for Jews and Arabs. Israel would have to give up its predominantly Jewish identity. That is because, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, the overall number of Arabs has caught up with that of Jews, and may soon exceed them.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen. President Donald Trump’s plan for the “deal of the century” has been put off. The subject is absent in campaigning for the Israeli election in April, which focuses on looming corruption charges against Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.
The Oslo accords of 1993 created a crazy quilt of autonomous zones in the lands that Israel captured in 1967. They also kindled the hope of creating a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem. After much bloodshed, though, most Israelis are wary of this “two-state solution.” Today Palestinians are mostly shut off by security barriers, and divided. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank refuses to negotiate with Israel but co-operates on security. Its Islamist rival, Hamas, which runs Gaza, dares not risk another war, for now.
Besides, the growth of Jewish settlements makes a two-state deal ever harder. Establishing a Palestinian state would probably require the removal of settlers in its territory. Israel had trouble enough evicting 8,000 Jews from Gaza in 2005. There are more than fifty times as many in the West Bank. Even excluding East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, the number of Jews east of the “green line” (the pre-1967 border) has risen from 110,000 in 1993 to 425,000. New home approvals nearly quadrupled from 5,000 in 2015–16 to 19,000 in 2017–18, according to Peace Now, a pressure group.
More than 700,000 Israeli settlers have taken up residence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war. Both areas are historic Palestinian territories currently under Israeli military occupation.
By Karen DeYoung, Steve Hendrix and John Hudson | The Washington Post | Nov 18, 2019
‘The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere. We conducted our review, and this was the appropriate time to bring it forward.’ — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the Trump administration had determined that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law, a decision he said had “increased the likelihood” of a Middle East peace settlement.
Pompeo said the Trump administration, as it did with recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, had simply “recognized the reality on the ground.”
The move upends more than 40 years of U.S. policy that has declared Israeli expansion into territories occupied since the 1967 war a major obstacle to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian Occupied Territories have, long ago, crossed the line from being occupied to being colonized. But there are reasons that we are trapped in old definitions, leading amongst them is American political hegemony over the legal and political discourses pertaining to Palestine.
June 5, 2018, marks the 51st anniversary of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
But, unlike the massive popular mobilization that preceded the anniversary of the Nakba — the catastrophic destruction of Palestine in 1948 — on 15 May, the anniversary of the occupation is hardly generating equal mobilization.
The unsurprising death of the “peace process” and the inevitable demise of the “two-state solution” has shifted the focus from ending the occupation per se to the larger, and more encompassing, problem of Israel’s colonialism throughout Palestine.
Grassroots mobilization in Gaza and the West Bank, and among Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab Desert, are, once more, widening the Palestinian people’s sense of national aspirations. Thanks to the limited vision of the Palestinian leadership those aspirations have, for decades, been confined to Gaza and the West Bank.
In some sense, the “Israeli occupation” is no longer an occupation as per international standards and definitions. It is merely a phase of the Zionist colonization of historic Palestine, a process that began over a 100 years ago, and carries on to this day. . . .
After more than half a century of occupation, most Israelis can no longer imagine themselves in the place of the Palestinians. But if we cannot imagine what it is like to live under occupation, we must at least confront its brutal reality.
Under an apartheid regime, it makes no sense to ask the white what he would do in the place of the black. To imagine the the tables turned has become impossible.
Twenty years ago, in March 1998, the head of the Labor Party Ehud Barak was asked by Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy what he would do were he a young Palestinian living under occupation. “If I were a Palestinian of the right age, I would, at some point, join one of the terrorist groups,” Barak answered.
Today, not only is it difficult to imagine a Jewish Israeli politician making a similar statement; the question itself sounds imaginary. Can we imagine ourselves as Palestinians? What a strange idea. If there is one thing 50 years of brutal military rule over another people has seared into the Israeli consciousness, it is that there is one law for us, and another for Palestinians — that our destinies as human beings were meant to be different.
When you consistently and systematically abuse the Other for decades, this separation of consciousness becomes a kind of survival mechanism. The fact that we cannot imagine ourselves in the place of those living in Gaza — for example, subject to a siege that forces one to live a life of suffering and extreme poverty — allows us to carry on without pangs of guilt.