The US declaration on Monday that Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank do not violate international law, thus reversing four decades of American policy, exposes the so-called “deal of the century” for what it really is: a scam to deflect attention from what the Trump administration is really doing which is to implement a far-right Zionist agenda.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s shocking reversal of policy can only be viewed as a free gift to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival and facing corruption charges that could send him to prison.
Pompeo, who has linked his evangelical beliefs to US foreign policy especially with regard to Israel, was also appealing to Trump’s Zionist Christian followers, who constitute an important voter base.
This dangerous mixture of politics and religion now characterises the Trump administration’s approach to one of the most complex conflicts in the Middle East. Since he came to power President Trump has taken a number of steps aimed at appeasing evangelicals at home and far-right Israeli politicians with no regard to long-term repercussions.
These included the unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the attempt to defund UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for millions of Palestine refugees, the annexation of the Golan Heights and now the legitimisation of illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank.
Israel will have to choose between instituting itself as an apartheid regime; ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, or giving up on its claim as a Jewish state. There are no other alternatives and both will prove detrimental to the Zionist project
By taking this step Trump has effectively upended America’s role as an interlocutor between the Palestinians and Israel. In a matter of four years, his unilateral — not to mention unlawful — actions have struck out the main elements that constituted the final status issues between Israel and the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords.
In the process he has also destroyed any peace plan that his administration was supposedly working on. What possibly can his team put on the table now that could entice the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world?
Pompeo’s declaration may pave the way for Netanyahu to fulfil an election pledge to annex the Jordan Valley and Israeli colonies. Such a move would end any chance for the two-state solution and would put the Palestinians and indeed Israel on a path towards a one-state reality.
This is something that even Israel’s most radical politicians have no response to. Israel will have to choose between instituting itself as an apartheid regime; ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, or giving up on its claim as a Jewish state. There are no other alternatives and both will prove detrimental to the Zionist project.
The latest US move will not change how the rest of the world views Israeli colonies: Not only they are illegal, as a handful of UN resolutions had underlined over the past decades, but they also constitute a war crime under the fourth Geneva Convention. By stating that they do not violate international laws, the US is not only wrong, as the UN, the EU, international courts, many Jewish organisations and most countries will state, but is now an accomplice to a war crime.
US position will hardly matter
Furthermore, such move will only distance the US further from its regional allies. It seals the deal on any possible regional peace plan that Trump had promised. Not only that the US had lost all credibility, but is now seen as an accessory to an historical injustice that will continue to be the core of regional instability.
If, and it is now a matter of time, an extremist government in Israel goes ahead and annexes colonies and the Jordan Valley, the US position will hardly matter. Whatever Israel does in the occupied territories will be deemed illegal and a war crime in the eyes of the world, and Washington cannot change that reality.
And by eliminating itself as an honest broker, the void that is left will be filled by other world powers. No matter what Israel does against the Palestinians it will continue to be seen as an occupier in breach of international laws and conventions.
The latest US move should be rejected openly and strongly by Arab and Muslim countries. It is important to note here that many American Jewish organisations and Congress men and women oppose Trump’s unilateral and unlawful actions. Arab lobbies should focus on the negative effects that this latest US move will have on Arab-American ties.
The Palestinians, whose unity is more urgent than any time before, should be encouraged to take their case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and UN agencies. The US should feel that such careless and politicised decisions carry a hefty price. Condemnation without action will do little to put pressure on Washington and will only encourage Israel to complete its colonisation of Palestinian lands.
— Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.