Opinion |

Neither Biden nor Trump Will Make Israel End the Occupation

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Israeli machinery demolishing a Palestinian house near Hebron, where building permits are hard to obtain, November 2, 2020.
Israeli machinery demolishing a Palestinian house near Hebron, where building permits are hard to obtain, November 2, 2020.Credit: Hazem Bader / AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is indifferent to whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden winds up U.S. president; it makes no difference. The occupation chalked up another big win Tuesday, long before the polling stations closed.

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It’s extraordinary – two totally different people such as Trump and Biden share an indisputable consensus: American support for the occupation. There doesn’t seem to be an issue on which the two agree more, so the identity of the winner is irrelevant to the occupation.

Trump is a friend of the settlers and has recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, but Biden too will do nothing to lead to a pullout or even freeze the settlement enterprise. And Trump derides the weak, including those at the very bottom of the heap, the Palestinians. Human rights is the last issue that interests him, international law has never appeared on his desk, and he has probably never heard about the suffering of the Palestinians, making him the opposite of his rival.

Biden knows a thing or two about human rights, about the weak, dispossessed and oppressed. Slavery resonates with him, and the woes of the Palestinians may touch his heart, under the influence of Barack Obama, who compared these sufferings to the past sufferings of Black people in America.

With Biden, we won’t see the likes of settler-friendly U.S. Ambassador David Friedman or Jared Kushner. They’ll be replaced by more serious and moderate Friedmans, but Biden will do nothing to bring justice and redemption to the Palestinians, enforce international law and stick his hand into the fire, other than lip service. After all, this is what the great Obama did.

Biden will provide a different environment, less humiliating for the Palestinians, more aware of their existence. When he launches his peace plan – perhaps the American’s hundredth unfulfilled peace plan – not only Orthodox rabbis and evangelical pastors will attend, as in Trump’s “deal of the century.” The Palestinians will also be there.

But the sequel will be no different – a photo-op, a special envoy, on a good day even a peace conference, all to no avail. The Palestinians will continue to bleed by the wayside, with Israel’s jackboot stomping on them and handcuffs tying their wrists, while Oman is added to the so-called peace process.

Of all issues, one ostensibly enjoys wide international consensus, from bloc to bloc and continent to continent. No issue unifies countries more than opposition to the occupation and the withholding of recognition of it. This is the one issue where there is no difference among U.S. presidents; not one president has considered putting a stop to it. Maybe one who hasn’t been born yet.

None of the reasonable explanations for this will do. All the charts mapping out different interests, American or international, aren’t convincing enough to explain how, in a matter that’s so clear-cut and obvious – the illegality and injustice of the occupation, the rush toward establishing an apartheid state and the suffering of the Palestinian people, millions of whom are the only people who are citizens of no state – there’s no difference between U.S. administrations. Ten presidents, 53 years: The occupation is at the height of its power and the chances of ending it are slimmer than ever, be it with Biden or Trump.

The superpower that’s financing, equipping, supporting and protecting the apple of its eye, Israel, is covering up all its crimes, not intending to use its power to influence Israel to end the occupation. It never intended to. America isn’t obligated to. Israel bears the brunt of the blame and responsibility.

But when a superpower continues to automatically and unconditionally support the country responsible for all this, administration after administration, with not one president pausing to ask why and until when, it too is tainted and guilty. The Israeli right can stop worrying. One fateful issue won’t land on the Oval Office desk, no matter who’s sitting behind it.

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