WASHINGTON, May 18, 2017 – What President Trump and his advisers must confront is that Israel has no intention of leaving the occupied territories and really never has. In his memoir “Summing Up,” former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir admitted that when he was in office he had no interest in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He rejected the land-for-peace formula adopted from U.N. resolution 242, and embraced by both Democratic and Republican administrations.
He ruled out any territorial concessions. Judea and Samaria, the biblical names used for the occupied West Bank by right-wing Israelis, Shamir wrote, “are an integral part of the Land of Israel, neither ‘captured’ in 1967 nor ‘returnable’ to anyone.”
He declared that “the sacred work” of expanding settlements “must not stop. it cannot stop. it is the heart of our existence and life.”
Whether Donald Trump is the right man to push Israel toward peace is difficult to say. He appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Israel a man with no diplomatic experience, but an advocate of expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
The family of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also finances West Bank settlements.
Will the president put pressure on Israel to move toward peace in opposition to the wishes of his closest friends and family? Only time will tell.
Israel’s continued occupation and the fact that millions of Palestinians have no legal or civil rights and have no part in electing their government makes Israel’s claims to being a “democracy” increasingly questionable. Beyond this, Israel claims to be a “Jewish” state and its treatment of Palestinians, in the views of many Jews, in Israel, America, and around the world, violate Judaism’s humane ethical and moral values.
Speaking to J Street, a Jewish group which challenges Israel’s occupation, in Washington in February, Tony Klug, a special adviser on the Middle East at the Oxford Research Group, said that support for Israel’s “never-ending” occupation is changing the nature of what it means to be Jewish. “We used to be people devoted to justice,” he declared. “Now we have become enablers of Israel’s injustices.”
Klug declared that “Israel’s never-ending occupation of the land and lives of another people, is not just seriously endangering Israel, not to mention deepening the despair of Palestinians.
Time honored Jewish ideals, justice, freedom, equality, peace, mutual respect, have made an extraordinary contribution to human civilization. They lie at the very core of Jewish identity. We now face the major reality of a state that describes itself loudly and often to be Jewish as withholding fundamental human rights from millions of people indefinitely.
A standpoint that is in total defiance of quintessential Jewish principles.”
The Netanyahu government continues to build settlements in the occupied territories and in February passed a law called the Regularization Law, which retroactively legalized at least a dozen settlement outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
This laid the framework for legalizing other outposts in the future.
Such outposts are Israeli communities built without authorization by the Israeli Government’s planning and zoning apparatus. In many cases, these outposts are retroactively declared neighborhoods of existing settlements, but in the past, before the Regularization Law, legalizing such outposts in private Palestinian land was more difficult and Palestinians had the right to fight the outposts’ existence on their land in court. International law is clear that an occupying power can take land only for military needs.
Palestinians and others argue that Israel has committed a war crime by transferring more than 700,000 civilians into the occupied territories.
Dan Meridor, a former government minister from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, called the Regularization Law “evil and dangerous.” Israel, he pointed out, can have jurisdiction over private Palestinian land only if Palestinians are able to vote in Israeli parliamentary elections. What is taking place now, he argues, is annexation by other means.
It shuts the door in the creation of a Palestinian state. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog declares: “The train departing from here has only one stop, at The Hague.”
This reference is to the home of the International Criminal Court.
The Netanyahu government is in the midst of a retreat from democracy. The cabinet seeks to downgrade the status of Arabic, now one of Israel’s official languages, spoken by 20% of the population.
The proposed law would define Hebrew as the only “national language.”
The proposed legislation also declares that the “right to self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.” Ayman Odeh, a Knesset member who heads the mainly Arab Joint List alliance said that approving the bill would mean trampling on minority rights and “would legally transform us into second-class citizens.”
Another piece of legislation supported by the Netanyahu government would bar Israeli non-government organization’s from petitioning the High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinians. This came in response to petitions being filed seeking the evacuation of settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The legislation would prohibit any individual, organization or public agency from petitioning the court to challenge a government action unless that action directly and personally harmed either the individual petitioner, members of the petitioning organization or an interest that a public agency is entrusted to upholding.
The bill is aimed at such Israeli human rights groups as Yesh Din, Peace Now and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which routinely seek to defend the rights of Palestinians.
Hopefully, President Trump understands or has been told, that Israel’s 50-year occupation and it’s continuing to build settlements on occupied territory, is the real impediment to peace. He must also be aware that our massive aid to Israel makes us culpable for encouraging such activity and, since money is fungible, financing it.
On this trip, he has a chance to tell Mr. Netanyahu some hard truths. It is an opportunity to advance the Middle East peace which he says is one of his primary goals.
Read more from Allan Brownfeld on CommDigiNews