As the Trump era comes to a close, the American and Israeli administrations are on a sprint to legalise tyranny and legitimise Palestinian oppression with changes that cannot be easily undone by the Biden administration.
In its final weeks in office, the Trump administration endorsed the Israeli occupation by announcing that US assistance to Israel could be allocated for West Bank settlements. As if to reinforce its position on the issue, in a formal visit to a West Bank settlement — a first for a US Secretary of State — Mike Pompeo announced that products made in Israeli settlements could be sold in the US labelled “Made in Israel.”
Then in an egregious effort to silence critics of Israel, Pompeo announced that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and other global human rights groups would be designated anti-Semitic for challenging Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
These moves further cement Israeli control over the occupied territories. The bottom line: the Trump administration’s changes in policy toward Jerusalem, Israel’s entire settlement enterprise, and the changed nomenclature now used to describe the occupied lands, amount to official recognition of Israeli sovereignty in those territories, thereby implementing the underpinnings of the “Deal of the Century.”
The Netanyahu administration has been just as busy as the Trump one in the last few weeks. To permanently sever Bethlehem from Jerusalem, the Israelis announced plans to add 1,257 settlement housing units on Palestinian land. Another 4,948 settlement units between Ramallah and Nablus strengthen the settler presence in the West Bank’s heart, further impeding Palestinian movement northward. In Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and the northern West Bank, entire Palestinian villages are being demolished to expand Israel’s control. While 1,700 Israeli settlement units built without permits have been legalised, Palestinian homes built without a permit are being destroyed. To compound this situation, the Netanyahu administration has accelerated the demolition of European Union-funded schools and field hospitals.
The damage done in the last days of Trump will make Biden’s pledge to return to the status quo almost impossible. Joe Biden pledged allegiance to the “two-state solution,” during his campaign. Now, thanks to the Trump administration, that hill has become significantly harder to climb.
US administrations before Trump were also complicit, in varying degrees, to Israel’s acquisitiveness. For decades, the United States turned a blind eye or neglected to take adequate measures to restrain Israel’s settlement expansion in Palestinian lands. They sinned by omission. However, the pro-settlement agenda pursued by the Trump administration has amounted to a more grievous sin of commission.
The peace camp has shrunk to a tiny fraction of Israel’s political map
The past two decades of failed policies created several deformities that make the future of a two-state solution difficult to even envision. The territories that were to have been dedicated to the future Palestinian State have been cut into pieces by Israeli settlements, infrastructure, and Jewish-only roads connecting them to each other and Israel proper.
Years of US enabling and coddling of the settlement enterprise has so emboldened Israeli hard-liners that politics in that country have moved dramatically rightward. By contrast, the peace camp has shrunk to a tiny fraction of Israel’s political map. As a result, it is impossible to see how any coalition government could emerge in the coming years that would be willing to make peace with Palestinians that would include a sovereign, contiguous, and viable Palestinian State.
Meanwhile, US acquiescence to Israel’s disgraceful, abusive treatment of the Palestinians has weakened the Palestinian Authority’s credibility in the West Bank, while empowering and emboldening Hamas’s consolidation of power in the Gaza Strip.
Finally, the erratic, often incoherent, and always pro-Israel US policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have discredited the US’s role as the main party responsible for brokering a just peace. But this is true not only for the Palestinians; it is also true for much of the rest of the world.