Trump Just Upended 40 Years of US Policy Toward Israel and May Have Shattered Any Hope of Peace in the Middle East

 In GDI, Land, Defense, Environment, Israel
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced the US would break from decades of pol­i­cy and no longer view Israeli set­tle­ments in the occu­pied West Bank as “incon­sis­tent with inter­na­tion­al law.”
  • This marks a stark depar­ture from the poli­cies of pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tions and a 1978 State Department legal opin­ion issued under the admin­is­tra­tion of for­mer President Jimmy Carter.
  • Israeli set­tle­ments are among the most heat­ed top­ics in for­eign affairs, and this move could derail any hope of peace and a two-state solu­tion between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • Palestinian lead­ers decried the announce­ment as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Trump ally who is fight­ing for his polit­i­cal sur­vival, expressed grat­i­tude.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home­page for more sto­ries.

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion on Monday announced a major shift in US pol­i­cy toward Israel that could make it vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to advance peace efforts in the Middle East. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would no longer view Israeli set­tle­ments in the occu­pied West Bank as “incon­sis­tent with inter­na­tion­al law.”

This effec­tive­ly means the US will no longer adhere to a 1978 State Department legal opin­ion issued under the admin­is­tra­tion of for­mer President Jimmy Carter that deter­mined the set­tle­ments vio­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al law.

“Calling the estab­lish­ment of civil­ian set­tle­ments incon­sis­tent with inter­na­tion­al law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said on Monday. “The hard truth is that there will nev­er be a judi­cial res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict, and argu­ments about who is right and who is wrong as a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al law will not bring peace.”

In 2016, the Obama admin­is­tra­tion declined to veto a land­mark res­o­lu­tion in the UN Security Council that demand­ed a halt to all Israeli set­tle­ments in the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. The US abstained from a vote on the res­o­lu­tion, which described the set­tle­ments as a “fla­grant vio­la­tion” of inter­na­tion­al law, and it passed in a 14–0 vote. 

Saeb Erekat, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which con­ducts peace talks on behalf of Palestinians, in a state­ment on Monday slammed the Trump admin­is­tra­tion over the announce­ment.

“Once again, with this announce­ment, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is demon­strat­ing the extent to which it’s threat­en­ing the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem with its unceas­ing attempts to replace inter­na­tion­al law with the ‘law of the jun­gle,’ ” Erekat said. “Henceforth, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty must take all nec­es­sary mea­sures to respond and deter this irre­spon­si­ble US behav­ior, which pos­es a threat to glob­al sta­bil­i­ty, secu­ri­ty, and peace. ” 

Israeli set­tle­ments are among the most divi­sive top­ics in con­ver­sa­tions on the ongo­ing Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. The set­tle­ments have long been con­sid­ered ille­gal by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and are wide­ly seen as one of the key obsta­cles to a two-state solu­tion, which has con­sis­tent­ly been the goal of the US gov­ern­ment.

Trump continues to hand gifts to Netanyahu at the expense of regional stability

Monday’s announce­ment is part of a series of deci­sions the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has made that rep­re­sent a stark turn away from years of US pol­i­cy toward Israel, such as President Donald Trump’s deci­sion ear­li­er this year to rec­og­nize Israel’s annex­a­tion of the Golan Heights. This new deci­sion could fur­ther under­mine the Palestine’s efforts to achieve state­hood.

By con­tin­u­ous­ly tak­ing stances that are in-line with more extreme ele­ments of Israeli pol­i­tics, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has increas­ing­ly embraced, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has decreased the like­li­hood of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. 

The Israeli gov­ern­men­t’s spend­ing on West Bank set­tle­ments has sky­rock­et­ed since Trump was elect­ed, accord­ing to offi­cial data ana­lyzed by The Associated Press. And the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s lat­est move could be viewed as a green­light to expand set­tle­ments, which could exac­er­bate ten­sions and lead to more vio­lence. 

Netanyahu, a Trump ally, in recent months has vowed to annex all Israeli set­tle­ments in the occu­pied West Bank, where about 400,000 Israeli set­tlers and 2.8 mil­lion Palestinians live. 

In an August speech, the Israeli leader said: “With God’s help we will extend Jewish sov­er­eign­ty to all the set­tle­ments as part of the land of Israel, as part of the state of Israel.”

At the time, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu’s remarks were a “con­tin­u­a­tion of attempts to cre­ate an unac­cept­able fait accom­pli that will not lead to any peace, secu­ri­ty or sta­bil­i­ty.”

Netanyahu, whose polit­i­cal career is in jeop­ardy after he failed to form a coali­tion fol­low­ing recent elec­tions, on Monday cel­e­brat­ed the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s deci­sion. 

The Israeli prime min­is­ter said in a state­ment that the US has “adopt­ed an impor­tant pol­i­cy that rights a his­tor­i­cal wrong” and “reflects an his­tor­i­cal truth.” 

“The Jewish peo­ple are not for­eign colo­nial­ists in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said. “In fact, we are called Jews because we are the peo­ple of Judea.”

Netanyahu added: “Israel is deeply grate­ful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire US admin­is­tra­tion for their stead­fast posi­tion sup­port­ing truth and jus­tice, and calls upon all respon­si­ble coun­tries who hope to advance peace to adopt a sim­i­lar posi­tion.”

The US embassy in Jerusalem issued a travel warning shortly after Pompeo’s announcement

Aaron David Miller, a for­mer State Department advis­er and top expert on the Israel-Palestine con­flict, warned that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s announce­ment will “fur­ther alien­ate Palestinians” and “could spark vio­lence” in the region.

Shortly after Pompeo made the announce­ment, the US embassy in Jerusalem warned Americans about trav­el­ing in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The trav­el warn­ing sug­gest­ed vio­lence could occur as a result of Pompeo’s state­ment.

“The US Embassy advis­es US cit­i­zens in or con­sid­er­ing trav­el to or through Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza to main­tain a high lev­el of vig­i­lance and take appro­pri­ate steps to increase their secu­ri­ty aware­ness in light of the cur­rent envi­ron­ment,” a state­ment on the embassy’s web­site said. 

The state­ment added: “Individuals and groups opposed to the Secretary of State’s recent announce­ment may tar­get US gov­ern­ment facil­i­ties, US pri­vate inter­ests, and US cit­i­zens.”

Source: Business Insider (Military & Defense)

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