Netanyahu poised to formalize Israeli apartheid
One of the most dehumanizing aspects of the current season of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the way the Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu administrations are turning Palestinians into political tools, even if it means supporting a war crime such as apartheid.
The US administration’s brazen green-lighting of whatever the embattled Netanyahu — who is trying to save himself from corruption prosecution — wants has led Israel’s prime minister of a caretaker government to pledge to annex Palestinian land while, according to the Times of Israel, assuring “his current supporters and those he hopes to attract that his planned move would not involve annexing ‘a single Palestinian’.”
Not only does this statement reflect the overarching Zionist ideology of wanting Palestinian land without Palestinians, but it formalizes what Palestinians have experienced in the last five decades — namely an apartheid regime.
This shameless electioneering pledge would not have been possible without the unmistaken, blind support Washington has been giving to Netanyahu and his right-wing government.
In recent months, US officials have denied that Israel occupied Palestinian lands, instead calling these areas disputed, and removed the term “Palestinian territories” from the US State Department’s map of the Middle East. Outgoing presidential adviser Jason Greenblatt rejected Palestinian rights in Jerusalem, calling them a mere “aspiration,” dismissing the international consensus and arguing its failure is enough reason to dismiss it. “If a so-called international consensus had been able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would have done so decades ago. It didn’t,” Greenblatt told the UN Security Council in July.
The way some of these decisions have been made — in a clear attempt at catering to hard-line religious groups in America and Israel — threatens a further escalation of a religious war that nobody in the region wants to see.
The Trump administration’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was clearly aimed at the president’s fundamentalist Christian base. Trump made sure that his Christian Zionist Vice President Mike Pence and a Christmas tree were present when he made his decision to move the embassy, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. Later, on a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, another leading Christian Zionist official in the Trump administration, gave religious motivation to the US move, saying: “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” when asked if God sent Trump to help the Jews. “I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” he added.
This shameless electioneering pledge would not have been possible without the unmistaken, blind support of Washington.
Pompeo was not the first Trump official to suggest a divine will behind the US president’s actions. Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told a religious television network that God “wanted Donald Trump to become president.” Pence and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions have also referenced Christianity or Bible verses in official remarks. And, despite the clear firewall between church and state since the establishment of the US, the Trump administration is the first in 100 years to have a Bible study group for Cabinet members.
Similar attempts to cater to religious elements also exist in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leave-no-prisoners-behind strategy to stay in office has also included a clear attempt to reach out to right-wing fundamentalist groups. Last month, Netanyahu promised that Jews would be able to pray on Al-Haram Al Sharif, which Jews call Temple Mount. This violated a 2014 understanding that Netanyahu agreed to with then-US Secretary of State John Kerry and King Abdullah in Amman. In that meeting, all three agreed that the third-holiest site in Islam, Al-Aqsa Mosque, was for “Muslims to pray at and for all others to visit.”
The latest pledge to annex the Jordan Valley the day after a government is formed clearly destroys whatever is left of the concept of the two-state solution, formalizes the de facto apartheid policy in the Occupied Territories and, with the support for radical religious elements, is further escalating this political conflict into a religious one. No wonder Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary Saeb Erekat felt compelled to warn Israelis and the world of the dangers of legalizing apartheid. Even Jewish-American presidential contender Bernie Sanders was vocal in his opposition to Netanyahu’s pledge. He tweeted: “Netanyahu’s proposal to annex occupied territory would violate international law and make a two-state solution nearly impossible. All who support Israeli-Palestinian peace must oppose it.”
The decades-long Israeli occupation must come to an end, providing Palestinians with their right to live in peace and freedom, whether in their own independent state alongside Israel or within a single state with equal rights. Any other proposal will be a form of the practice of apartheid, which the international community has declared to be a war crime.
- Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Twitter: @DaoudKuttab