After Jerusalem, Netanyahu eyes the Golan Heights
Benjamin Netanyahu is a man with a large appetite. Generous Uncle Trump recently allowed him to feast upon Jerusalem in its entirety. Now Netanyahu is agitating to devour the Golan Heights too. And perhaps large segments of the West Bank. And why not the Lebanese Shebaa Farms region?
Instead of firmly telling Israel’s prime minister that annexing other people’s land is a grave breach of international law, US National Security Adviser John Bolton last week smiled indulgently and told him ‘Perhaps, but not yet!’ With Trump and Netanyahu drowning in their respective criminal investigations, annexation of the Golan could be their golden opportunity to divert the news agenda.
Israel is emerging as a net winner from the catastrophic instability in the region; not least in southwestern Syria where the regime’s weakness and Russia’s action against Iranian proxies allows Israel to enjoy the pretentions of a regional power in the strategically crucial Golan.
With Trump cutting another $200m in essential aid to the Palestinians last week, has their cause ever appeared so bleak? The two-state solution appears dead and buried, yet the world and Arab states pay scant attention. Israel’s outreach to Hamas threatens de facto perpetuation of Gaza’s separation from other Palestinian territories. For decades, Israel and Iran had shared an agenda of dividing the Palestinian cause. Their efforts are finally bearing fruit.
The West Bank, meanwhile, endures slow strangulation; encircled and fragmented by the relentless and illegal building of settlements. With Jerusalem’s municipal borders extending toward the Dead Sea, aggressive town planning is squeezing Palestinians out of their capital altogether. Palestinians are told they may be allowed to make the isolated and faceless Abu-Dis housing block their capital. But capital of what?
Senior figures from Palestine and the region recently told me that they felt the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mutation into the Palestinian Authority had been a strategic mistake. With the Palestinians pressured on all sides, they speculated that the only option could be a return to the PLO’s aspirations of liberation. They stressed that Palestinians mustn’t give up; mustn’t lose their attachment to their land by leaving; and mustn’t be seduced by Israel into allowing their cause to be hijacked by extremists.
Israel is emerging as a net winner from the catastrophic instability in the region; not least in southwestern Syria.
Netanyahu’s new apartheid law defines Israel on theocratic foundations; consigns non-Jews to second-class citizenship; and confers quasi-legal status upon settlements. UN mechanisms for international justice have faced a war of attrition with US-Israeli bureaucratic terrorism (funding cuts, obstructionism, boycotts and campaigns of incitement). It is thus unsurprising that racist, inhuman laws don’t even elicit token diplomatic gestures like the temporary withdrawal of ambassadors or formal rebukes. After the defunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other essential programs, who will educate and feed Palestine’s children? If they are left uneducated and unemployable, who is at fault when these young people are seduced by extremism?
When the Trump administration gifted Jerusalem to Israel last year the US president hinted that reciprocal concessions could be offered to the Palestinians. Bolton categorically killed off that prospect last week; indicating that this was up to the parties themselves — as if Netanyahu may warm-heartedly grant meaningful concessions to the Palestinians in a spontaneous gesture of goodwill.
Jared Kushner (who, apart from occasional sycophantic visits to Uncle Netanyahu, has been invisible all year) is heralded as the man who will emerge with a definitive peace plan. However, the absence of substantive consultations and the Trump administration’s ideological leanings make it certain that this deal will be a bespoke package, geared toward Palestinians surrendering their few remaining rights; entailing recognition of the settlements; and leaving Palestinians with scattered scraps of land. Meanwhile, President Abbas will be denounced as a terrorist-sympathizer and enemy of peace if he doesn’t rush out and embrace these attempts to legalize theft. We hear the elderly Abu-Mazin is hunting for a successor, but who would desire this impossibly thankless role?
Trump believes that the US presidency renders him omnipotent: When he tells blatant lies on live TV, these falsehoods enjoy the status of truth because he is The President. When he says that Jerusalem is “off the table” and belongs to Israel, this becomes an incontrovertible fact, because Trump says so. Netanyahu partakes in this grotesque delusion: Israel passes outrageous racist laws, steals other people’s land and strips them of their rights — yet with the US administration’s stamp of approval, theft, oppression and racism miraculously become legally justified.
Lies and injustice remain lies and injustice — even if the most powerful man in the world gives them his blessing, and even after five, 50 or 500 years. It is sickening to hear anyone say that the Palestinians will eventually learn to stomach the dispossession of their homeland, as if the Palestinians are an inconvenient truth that will ultimately disappear and cease troubling our consciences.
Seventy years on, the Palestinian nation is no closer to disappearing. Just because international justice has ceased to exist doesn’t mean that mankind has abandoned its own sense of justice. Trump and Netanyahu are welcome to make vacuous claims that Jerusalem and the Golan are Israeli. They could equally claim that black is white, or that “the truth is not the truth,” as Trump’s top lawyer declared last week.
But Trump and Netanyahu do not possess magic powers with which to suspend reality: Justice is justice. And justice will ultimately catch up with them. Like King Canute, who believed he had the power to stop the tide coming in, they will eventually drown in their lies, their hubris and their corrupt attempts to pervert the path of justice, to be cast into the unforgiving dustbin of history.
I remain optimistic that maybe not my children but my grandchildren — inhabiting a fairer world — will live to see a just solution for the Palestinians and the long-suffering people of this region.
- Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.