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Issue #1766      February 22, 2017

Culture & life

Trump’s bad news for Palestinians

Right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia is an expression of support from our right-wing Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and his entire cabinet. Netanyahu comes here fresh from visiting right-wing US President Donald Trump where (not surprisingly) their views were singularly in agreement. Israel’s colonisation of the remaining parts of Palestine would clearly be OK with the new US administration.

Right-wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

As the group Jewish Voice for Peace commented on the Trump-Netanyahu meeting: “Didn’t hear anything from Trump or Netanyahu that indicates any intention to enable Palestinians to have equal rights and freedom.”

Emboldened by Trump’s extreme-rightwing posture on just about everything, a bare five days after Trump’s inauguration as US President, Netanyahu declared on January 25, with regard to the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, a vital part of Israel’s process of colonisation of Palestine, “We are building, and we will continue to build”.

As Palestinian-born author and commentator Ramzy Baroud notes: “All settlements – officially recognised settlements and unauthorised outposts – are illegal under international law. The verdict has been passed numerous times by the United Nations and, more recently, pronounced with unmistakable clarity in UN Security Council Resolution 2334.” However, confident as they are of the unquestioning support of their American ally, Israel’s leaders simply thumb their nose at the international body.

In fact, Israel’s contempt for the UN and world opinion could not be more obvious. Israel has announced the construction of over 6,000 new housing units to be built throughout the Occupied Palestinian territories, the construction of a brand new settlement (the first in 20 years), and a new law that paves the way for the annexation of large swathes of the Occupied West Bank.

Diana Buttu has described in Newsweek how the process of building settlements is invariably accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian homes. In fact, 140 Palestinian structures have been demolished since the beginning of 2017 alone, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories.

Any criticism of Israel’s bulldozing of Palestinian homes, its feverish construction of more and more “Jewish homes” and its blatant imposition of apartheid on the occupied Palestinian territory, is met with shrill cries of “anti-Semitism” and suggestions that such criticism is immoral in view of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.

In fact, however, the Holocaust experience renders Israel’s unceasing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians all the more inexcusable. Trump, of course, raised none of these issues with Netanyahu during their meeting. Instead, Trump said that Israel has been “treated very, very unfairly,” presumably by the UN – certainly not by the long-suffering Palestinians. Trump indicated that he would correct the “historical injustice” of Israel’s supposed mistreatment.

Says Baroud: “The new law [the “Regularisation Bill” of February 6 which allows the Israeli government to retroactively recognise Jewish outposts built without official permission on privately-owned Palestinian land] is the first step towards the annexing of the West Bank or, at least, most of it.”

Even Israel’s own High Court has described the country’s status in the West Bank as that of a belligerent occupier. Nevertheless, right-wing members of Netanyahu’s coalition are pressing for annexation of territory in the West Bank, while on his recent UK and US visits Netanyahu noticeably backed away from any commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. That should be alarming to the Australian Jewish community because most of its representative bodies have publicly declared their support for a two-state solution.

“To meet the ‘security needs’ of the settlers” says Baroud, “more ‘Jewish-only’ bypass roads will be constructed, more walls erected, more gates to keep Palestinians away from their land, schools and livelihood will be put up, more checkpoints, more suffering, more pain, more anger, and more violence.

“It is the very definition of Apartheid, in case you are still wondering.”

However, Baroud sees contradictions in Trump’s attitude to Israel. Trump doesn’t like being taken for granted and Baroud notes that “even Trump is growing frustrated by Israel’s shamelessness and audacity. He called on Israel in an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper to ‘be reasonable with respect to peace’.

“There is [only] so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left,” Trump said. In addition, “he is backtracking on promises he made with regard to moving the US embassy and ... he is realising that Netanyahu and his US supporters have led him to a cliff and are now asking him to jump.”

Hitherto, the US has nominally at least supported the so-called “two-state” solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict, a solution that would see a separate Palestinian state beside Israel. Israel however has fought tenaciously to thwart such an outcome. At his Washington meeting with Trump, Netanyahu voiced the extraordinary view that a two-state solution would give rise to a “terrorist, Islamic dictatorship”, which sounds like something meant to frighten Americans rather than a serious assessment.

As for Trump, he was ambivalent: “I’m looking at two states and one state. I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one,” Trump said, as Netanyahu laughed.

Lead Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, lashed out at Trump’s and Netanyahu’s wavering on their commitment to a two-state solution, arguing that the only alternative to two sovereign nations is a single, secular democratic state.

“Contrary to Netanyahu’s plan of one state and two systems, apartheid, the only alternative to two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 border is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews, on all of historic Palestine,” Erekat said.

The Netanyahu government however, prefers a policy of aggression and apartheid, which does not augur well in the long term for the people of either Palestine or Israel.

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