Trump's Poisoned Gift to Israel

The U.S. declaration could provide a tailwind to the right-wing plan of annexation

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a meeting at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, October 18, 2019
Sebastian Scheiner,AP

The change in the American policy on the legal status of the West Bank settlements should be no cause for rejoicing in Israel. If this is a gift, then it’s a poisoned one. Official American permission to settle in the occupied territories not only does not contribute to Israel’s strength and status, it could push it into an irreversible situation of an apartheid state.

It seems that U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy regarding the conflict can be summed up as follows: If for decades, previous administrations have tried and failed to make peace, then we’ll take the beliefs that guided our predecessors and do the exact opposite. After “taking off the negotiating table” core issues such as the status of Jerusalem and the problem of the refugees, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and striking a blow against UNRWA, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s is a crass attempt to negate the assumption at the basis of the traditional American approach to the conflict, by which peace requires the evacuation of settlements.

It’s been three years since Trump was elected president and the “deal of the century” was declared the solution to the old conflict, and the region has not moved even one step forward toward reconciliation. What is left of these pompous declarations are poisoned gifts that Trump has given to his protégé Netanyahu, which benefit him electorally and strengthen the right-wing camp.

Netanyahu indeed thanked the Americans who in their statement “clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently illegal under international law.”

The liar of course is Netanyahu, who knows full well that despite the declaration by the Americans, they cannot legitimize the illegitimate. The settlements were built on occupied land in opposition to international law and UN resolutions. What’s worse, the American declaration could provide a tailwind to the right-wing plan of annexation. Netanyahu might be aware of the destructive implications of such a step, but the state and its future have not been at the forefront of his mind for a long time now, only his own future.

What is even more infuriating is the response of Kahol Lavan chairman MK Benny Gantz, who thanked the American government for the declaration. Instead of representing those who seek peace with our neighbors based on a division of the land as the only possibly solution that would recognize the national aspirations of both peoples through respect of the right to self-determination – Gantz shows himself to be a pale replica of Netanyahu when it comes to his diplomatic concepts.

If Gantz really wants to be a worthy alternative, he must realize that the greatest danger looming over Israel is – along with the dissolution of the fabric of Israeli society and descent into a culture of corruption – deterioration to the point that Israel must decide whether it is an apartheid state or a binational state, when each of those possibilities means the end of the Zionist dream.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.