Washington has offered a precious new “gift” to the religious and nationalist far-right forces in Israel: the settlements are subject to Israeli law and do not contradict international law. No Israeli politician has any excuse for postponing or delaying annexation after receiving this explicit green light from the White House, which is now run by the American right-wing. The Trump White House departed from the approaches of previous administrations, which were, in any case, all known to be biased in favour of Israel, in order to support its extremist religious and nationalist right-wing power base.
This US move to regard settlements as legitimate — despite them being illegal in international law — gave out warning signs in the lead up to it. No one could claim that they were surprised by the decision, as the US administration officials and Middle East team — Jared Kushner, et al — have always stated that settlements and settlement expansion do not conflict with President Trump’s plan known as the deal of the century. What Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did was simply go the extra mile in developing the traditional US position to match that of the right-wing in the racist occupation state. Maybe his timing serves Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to save his personal sinking ship.
There were predictions yesterday that Netanyahu, who is currently in a racist frenzy against Palestinians everywhere, especially those within the so-called Green Line, intends to beat all subsequent governments and presidents to it and announce the annexation of the occupied Jordan Valley and areas north of the Dead Sea. This will probably happen and not only prevents the establishment of an independent Palestinian state but also cuts off the livelihoods of three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The new American position was met with a wave of Palestinian, Arab, regional and international condemnation and disapproval. This, though, is not enough. Mere verbal condemnation does not change anything on the ground. The Palestinians know what they need to do, but they are unable and failing, at times because of their shameful division and at others because of the weakness of their institutions, factions and aging leadership. Without the wheels of change turning in Palestine, it is difficult for us to expect change in the Arab, regional and international circles. This begins with a response to Pompeo originating from Palestine first. Neither the Palestinians nor their national cause will be served by continuing to bemoan the weakness of the Arab positions, nor will they benefit from eloquent criticisms of the international community’s positions. If they do not advocate for themselves and their cause, no one will advocate for them.
So far, there is nothing to be optimistic about in terms of the return of consciousness and vigilance to the Palestinians. Major events are happening before their eyes and they have yet to lift a finger. We have spent too much time trying to explain why the Palestinians have not risen up against their miserable and complicated situation under two authorities, and in light of Israel’s hateful and racist occupation. However, we are still waiting for the straw that will break the camel’s back and cause them to leave their resignation and negativity behind.
Will Washington’s position on legitimising the settlements be that straw, or will the Palestinians, specifically those in the West Bank, just carry on as usual, as if nothing has happened? They know that the settlements exist as a fait accompli and already operate under Israeli law, so nothing in practice will take place that will affect their everyday life.
This is a very complex situation to which Israel is adding more obstacles for the Palestinian national movement to overcome. The latter, meanwhile, is moving slowly — with little success, it must be said — to regain its unity, fighting spirit, and national project.
This article first appeared in Addustour on 20 November 2019