Settlement construction intensifies with Trump’s ‘vision for peace’

First published by the Arab Weekly on 1/3/2020

Trump’s “vision for peace” is turning into Netanyahu’s reality of “grand theft auto of Palestinian land.”

Beyond creeping. Israel’s controversial concrete barrier separating the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev in the northern part of east Jerusalem and the Palestinian area of Al-Ram in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)

The United States has given Israel the green light to escalate settlement construction but the rest of the world still objects.

Last November, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that: “After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees… (the) establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” reversing decades of the United States considering the settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights illegal.

The last time the UN Security Council passed a resolution on settlements was in the twilight of the Obama administration, December 23, 2016, on which the United States abstained, allowing it to pass.

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 affirmed “that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

The resolution stated it would not recognise any changes to the June 4, 1967, lines, “including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

US President Donald Trump’s “peace to prosperity” plan rides roughshod over international law by rejecting Security Council resolutions as the basis for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. It not only entrenches the Jewish-only settlement enterprise, it talks about revoking Israeli citizenship from 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Triangle area.

While the Palestinians, who were absent from the development of the plan, rejected the proposal, the Americans and Israelis are moving ahead with its implementation.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a known supporter of illegal Israeli settlements, is on a mission to plan Israel’s annexation plans, joining a US-Israeli committee to develop detailed annexation boundaries, an astonishing state of affairs when the United States should be an honest broker.

For Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, these are golden days when he receives gift after gift from Trump that previous Israeli leaders could only have dreamed of and hoped they would come over a period of decades.

Whether for reasons to do with realising the Zionist dream or political expediency to improve his standing in the third elections for Israel in one year, Netanyahu is escalating the number of announcements of more Jewish-only housing units.

The announcements seem more focused on Jerusalem, designed to increase the number of Jews in East Jerusalem, detach the holy city from the West Bank and eliminate the chance of a capital for Palestinians in “Eastern Jerusalem,” as the Trump plan suggests.

One of the areas targeted is in Kufr Aqab, which includes the site of the former Jerusalem airport at Qalandia, straddling East Jerusalem and Ramallah. The plan is to build 6,000-9,000 illegal housing units only for Jews and remove the chance of even the tiniest of airports for the Palestinians.

It would add to the feeling of Palestinians in Ramallah that they are being surrounded by illegal settlements. This would necessitate that Israel’s security needs are met with unknown consequences for Palestinians in neighbouring areas.

Netanyahu’s latest announcement is about building in an area much of the world has seen as a red line, one referred to as E1. This is an area next to the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, which is effectively a Jewish-only city. The advancement of such a plan would seal Jerusalem off from the West Bank.

The international community had seen this corridor as an important link between the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a future contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem — not “Eastern Jerusalem” — as its capital.

Condemnation came from the Palestinian Authority but also from the European Union and the United Kingdom. The hypocrisy of the international community came from Germany and Canada. Both condemned the settlement announcements as illegal but also wrote to the International Criminal Court arguing that it should not open an investigation into this and other violations because “Palestine” is not a state.

In any case, Netanyahu, a man facing charges of corruption, bribery, fraud and breach of trust, is in no mood to listen to reason. To him, international law applies to everyone except Israel. The United States is not helping rein him in.

In fact, by recognising the settlements as legal and supporting Israel’s annexation of illegally occupied land, including in the Jordan Valley, the United States is throwing international law to the wall.

The honourable thing for the United States to do would be to leave the United Nations, which it despises and attacks almost on a daily basis especially because it says the United Nations is unfair to Israel. However, it will not do that because it has a veto in the Security Council, which it regularly uses to protect its interests and those of its allies, primarily Israel.

Trump’s “vision for peace” is turning into Netanyahu’s reality of “grand theft auto of Palestinian land.”