US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration revoking the notion that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, has had seismic effects, at least rhetorically.
It ended the lip service the U.S. was paying to that elusive “two-state solution” and international law, and elicited condemnation from progressive Democratic leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Elisabeth Warren. It was also widely seen as trying to influence the never-ending Israeli election, by aiding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over Benny Gantz. Former US Ambassador to Israel and ‘peace-process’ negotiator Martin Indyk saw this as influenced by the pro-settler US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman:
A totally gratuitous move by a discredited @SecPompeo. Why slap the Palestinians in the face again? Why boost the settlement/annexation movement at the very moment that Gantz is trying to form a government? This has Friedman’s fingerprints on it.
But notice the suggestion here, that Gantz is somehow an antidote to that “settlement/annexation movement”?
Here is what this Gantz actually said about the Pompeo announcement:
I applaud the US government for its important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security of the Middle East. The fate of the settlements should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and promote peace.”
Gantz applauds. When Netanyahu recently suggested to officially annex the Jordan Valley as a first step to a wider annexation, Gantz’s Blue White party complained he stole their idea. That’s the opposition.
And that’s also the bigger picture in Israeli politics and its parliament: Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post observed that, “the vast majority of the Knesset is in favor of Pompeo’s announcement that the US no longer considers settlements illegal” and that “party leaders representing 96/120 MKs are in favor (which just shows how little of the Knesset could really be considered left-wing these days)”.
The Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation of international law. Until now, virtually the whole world except Israel has considered them as such, and the U.S. played a double-game. Palestinian-American human rights lawyer and activist Noura Erekat points out the American hypocrisy: “What Pompeo is announcing is not a rupture in US foreign policy, but a culmination of it,” she said, adding that since 1967 the U.S. has “spoken out of both sides of its mouth,” both criticizing settlements and helping to fund their expansion.
But no more. The ‘Pompeo declaration’ as it may be called in the future, is saying ‘no more pretending!’ This declaration is also a litmus test that will show what respect people actually have for international law. While American politicians may be using this to voice their liberal concerns, in Israel it hardly causes any uproar, and any criticism is overwhelmed by the applause from both the right-wing government, and the vast majority of its supposed opposition.
There are no Israeli political dynamics to oppose Israeli criminality. Liberal Zionists need to wake up from their imaginary dreamland. There is no effective agency for upholding international law and basic human rights in Israel, as far as Palestinians are concerned, Israeli is a squarely criminal state.
Those who seek to influence Israel with soft pressure without ending the United States’ militant support are just trying to “live up to the Zionist dream,” a dream which they believe can be liberal. But the thrust of Zionism has never gone that way; it was always about apartheid in one way or another.
The Trump administration has taken another step in the complete Israeli takeover of historical Palestine (after having recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the embassy there, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Jolan/Golan). The next step is further annexations of parts of the West Bank, and Pompeo’s declaration will assist that. Without a prospect of a Palestinian state, Israel’s perpetual ruling of a people without equal rights will become increasingly difficult to defend as both “Jewish” and “democratic”. This is what liberal Zionists are really afraid of – the end of the dream.
There’s only one game in town that seems to have the prospects of changing this: a concerted campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel. Those who want to handle Israel with kid gloves and supply it with even more weapons for its massacres, will only be abetting Israeli criminality, no matter what enlightened words they utter.
H/t Annar Follesø