Opinion

Go for It Donald. Legalize the Settlements

Trump has the capacity to mete out a mercy killing to all the empty formulas, to let the air out of the “peace process” balloon and to finally kill off the walking dead known as the two-state solution.

Gideon Levy
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In this Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In this Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. Credit: Paul Sancya, AP
Gideon Levy

If only the president-elect of the United States will keep his word. We must now pray for the health and well-being of Donald Trump, and hope he does not go back on his big promises to Israel. After he moves the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, preferably to the eastern part of the unified capital, we must hope that his election will also bring about a change in U.S. policy toward the settlement enterprise.

I write these words without a trace of irony. If Trump gathers up the courage to make such a change, then he will contribute more than any of his predecessors, more enlightened than he, to reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump has the capacity to mete out a mercy killing to all the empty formulas, to let the air out of the “peace process” balloon, to serve one last drink, to disperse the grotesque masked ball and to finally kill off the walking dead known as the two-state solution.

His statement, reported on Friday in The Wall Street Journal, that he hoped to make the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, must be attributed to his ignorance: Such a deal no longer has any chance, it does not even have one serious partner. But Trump can shake up the situation, that is what he was elected to do.

Such a shock is essential. Before the election, he declared that the settlements were not an obstacle to peace and that he would not stand in their way. The time has come for a president to speak that way too. The policy of his predecessor — all his predecessors — is what has allowed some 800,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, a critical mass which has led to the point of no return.

Trump’s predecessors said they opposed the settlements. What didn’t they do to stop the construction: Begged, asked, sometimes reprimanded, once or twice even harshly; occasionally the muttered “freeze,” but every settler hut in the occupied territories belongs to them. They funded it, did not lift a finger to prevent its construction. They were the friends of the enterprise, the presidents of the settlers. Trump is supposed to put an end to this farce. The end of hypocrisy, enough with the self-righteousness; onward with the settlements.

Trump promised, and Trump may carry out his promise. The time has come to slacken the straw reins. In any case, another 100,00 or 200,000 settlers will not change anything. Letting go of the reins will tear away the mask: The settlers will build, the law legalizing settlements built on private Palestinian land will pass — even without the law no one has considered punishing them for their crimes — and the tricks of Amona and its like will end. Area C will be annexed to Israel, and additional areas in its wake. The legal situation will finally catch up to the situation on the ground, and the situation on the ground has been one of annexation for a long time already, but now only without the disguise. No one will be able to deny the reality any longer. The Green Line is dead, the two-state solution will not arise, for 50 years already a single state with apartheid in its east has existed.

If Trump keeps his word and legalizes the settlements, the declarations about wanting two states, which no Israeli government has meant, much less endeavored to implement, will die. Trump will rip off the masks and Israel will be exposed to the naked truth: We have a single state with two peoples, one with full rights, the other with no rights, with a military dictatorship of half a century. In the world, it is accepted to call such a regime apartheid. Thanks to Trump, it will be officially declared as such.

It is possible that Western governments will continue to support the existence of an apartheid nation in the 21st century, even after reality blows up in their face. It is possible that most Israelis will continue to live in peace with their consciences in their apartheid state; they became accustomed to it a long time ago. But there is also a chance that ripping away the cloak by the president of the United States will outrage governments and public opinion.

The only solution that will remain will be changing the form of government in the country, from apartheid, which grants undemocratic privileges to one people compared to another, to an egalitarian democracy of all its residents. In other words: “One man, one vote.” That is the twist of fate: It is possible that the implementation of this exalted and just slogan, which was born in South Africa, will actually go down in the books in the name of Donald J. Trump, the man who it is doubtful whether he has heard of it, and certainly would not agree to it in its time.

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