First published by Inside Arabia on 30/12/2020
As President Trump’s term ends, he leaves behind a legacy that has emboldened Israel to advance its apartheid policies across historic Palestine. Israel’s announcement that it intends to further develop infrastructure to sustain its settlements, is an outcome of this—ensuring a perpetual conflict between Israel and Palestinians and a de facto annexation of the West Bank.
Roadworks expand a road to Israeli settlements inside the West Bank, near the city of Bethlehem, Nov. 29, 2020. In years to come, Israelis will be able to commute into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from settlements in the West Bank. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
In the lead up to the “normalization” deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, which could be described as more of a “subservience agreement,” the UAE announced that as a result of the burgeoning diplomatic ties, Israel would cancel its plan to annex wide swathes of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to deny the claim and promised de jure annexation was postponed, not cancelled.
The reality is that de facto annexation through settlement growth has continued unabated.
In October, Israel announced that it planned to build 5,000 units in illegal settlements in the West Bank, prompting condemnation by the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In a joint statement the nations expressed “deep concern,” and confirmed the settlements violate international law and “further imperil the viability of a two-state solution.”
Moreover, noting the normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, the statement deemed Israel’s annexation plan “a counterproductive move” in light of warming Arab-Israeli relations, and called for “an immediate halt to settlement construction, as well as to evictions and demolitions of Palestinian structures in East-Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
Furthermore, the European countries emphasized they would not recognize “any changes to the June , 1967 lines, including with regards to Jerusalem, unless agreed to between the parties” and declared “[t]he suspension of plans to annex parts of Occupied Palestinian Territories must become permanent.”
Israel, in November, announced its decision to advance the construction of 1,257 settlement buildings in the Givat HaMatos area of the occupied West Bank.
Israel, however, took this condemnation in stride and in November announced its decision to advance the construction of 1,257 settlement buildings in the Givat HaMatos area of the occupied West Bank. This prompted another statement of a disapproval; this time from James Cleverly, UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, who once again reminded Israel that its decision “would violate international law, and risks causing serious damage to the prospects for a viable Palestinian State. He called for “both the tender process and the advancement of other settlements in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank to be suspended immediately.”
Unsurprisingly, such admonition without the threat of action was taken on the chin by Israel as it is convinced it can continue to steal Palestinian land, build on it, and move its citizens into its designated Jewish-only colonies in a continuation of its de facto expansionist agenda. Not only does Israel believe that the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is disputed, it also has the backing of the United States, which, via US Secretary of State Pompeo, declared the settlements were not “per se” in contravention of international law. Pompeo went further by visiting illegal settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights in November, the first US Secretary of State to do so.
US Ambassador to Israel David Freidman recently held a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister at Ariel University, which is located in an illegal settlement, to sign an agreement which effectively removed the “Green Line” between Israel and the OPT in relation to science funding. As far as the Trump administration is concerned, Israel’s territory includes the whole of historic Palestine, despite the fact that half the inhabitants of the land are not Jewish Israelis.
The US is not alone in this as both the UAE and Bahrain apparently are not opposed to sourcing goods, including wine made in the occupied Golan Heights, for sale in their domestic markets. And, though Bahrain suggested that its Minister of Industry Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani’s expression of openness to settlement imports was “misinterpreted,” the fact that he made the original statement, knowing that settlements are illegal under international law, is of concern. Accordingly, the UAE appears to have no qualms about the legal status of settlements, and it welcomed a delegation of Israeli settlers to Dubai to further develop relations between the two newly bonded countries.
The normalizing Arab countries are recognizing Israel as if it is sovereign over the whole of historic Palestine.
Indeed, the Green Line is being erased with every “subservience deal.” The normalizing Arab countries are recognizing Israel as if it is sovereign over the whole of historic Palestine. Israel does of course control the land, from the river to the sea, already. But it went further when it passed the Nation State Law in 2018, which gave self-determination rights in Israel only to Jews. Considering Israel’s blatant discriminatory policies, even against its own Palestinian citizens, it has cemented its long-suspected status as a 21st century apartheid state—practicing this through some 65 laws which discriminate against its Palestinian citizens.
Israel also allows Jewish communities to operate Admissions Committees to exclude Palestinians from renting or buying property in select communities. Bizarrely, the Israeli Supreme Court recently allowed an Admissions Committee to exclude Bedouin citizens from their own soon to be demolished Um Alhiran village in the Negav, only to have them live in the new “Jewish only” settlement of Hiran to be built on the ruins.
Israel’s status as an apartheid state was confirmed in a report produced by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in 2017, which concluded Israel’s discriminatory practices against Palestinians extend even to those in the diaspora. While the UN Secretary General subsequently ordered the report be taken off ESCWA’s website, it is still a formal UN document.
To sustain and entrench its apartheid policies, Israel realizes it needs to further develop the physical infrastructure that links illegal settlements with cities in Israel.
To sustain and entrench its apartheid policies, Israel realizes it needs to further develop the physical infrastructure that links illegal settlements with towns and cities in Israel. It needs to make the journey for Jewish Israelis from these colonies easier, which would encourage more Israelis to populate the West Bank colonies. In other words, it can build homes, but it needs to make living in them more attractive to further separate Israeli settlers from Palestinians in the West Bank.
This explains the reasoning behind the newly announced network of roads, bridges, and tunnels that will bypass Palestinian towns and villages. “This is not another hundred housing units there or here,” Yehuda Shaul, an Israeli activist who has been researching the new developments, told the Associated Press. “This is de facto annexation on steroids.”
As Donald Trump leaves office, his legacy in historic Palestine is not simply recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and breaking the taboo of Arab-Israeli normalization agreements. It also includes emboldening Israel to do whatever it desires, ensuring a perpetual conflict with frequent acts of violence by Israelis and self-defense by Palestinians. This will ultimately make it difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to row back the tensions due to the pressure he is likely to receive from political supporters of Israel, and as a result of his own pro-Israel track record.