Trump Administration Delivers on Annexation Promise
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel on November 19th for a two-day visit in which he made history with respect to U.S. support for settlements, delivering a series of extraordinary (though entirely predictable) victories to Israeli settlements and Israel’s Greater Israel pro-annexation movement.
- Final Days of Trump Admin, Part 1: Historic Shifts in US Settlements Policy
- Final Days of Trump Admin, Part 2: Full Steam Ahead on Givat Hamatos Settlement
- Final Days of Trump Admin, Part 3: Israel Expected to Advance Har Homa E Settlement Plan
- Final Days of Trump Admin, Part 4: Israel Set to Start Process of Land Registration in East Jerusalem
- Final Days of Trump Admin, Part 5: Settlers Push to Re-Establish Abandoned Settlements in Northern West Bank
- Final Days of Trump Admin, Part 6: Bibi Seeks U.S. OK for More Settlement Projects, Settlers Push for Outpost Authorization
Here are three key takeaways from Pompeo’s announcements:
Penalising boycott of settlements. Pompeo directed the State Department’s special envoy to combat antisemitism to identify organisations that oppose trade “with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel”. Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), said the move was unprecedented in US policy. “This is brand new ground. There’s nothing comparable to it.” Friedman told MEE that most organisations would not be able to certify that they don’t distinguish between settlements and Israel. “There are global NGOs that work around the world – and consistent with international law, with EU policy, with the values of human rights and civil rights, they differentiate between Israel and settlements,” she said. “If this policy is implemented as it’s articulated by the State Department, it means that those organisations will not be able to be partners with the US anywhere in the world.”…
‘Made in Israel’. In keeping with the effort to obscure the distinction between Israel and the Palestinian territories that it controls, Pompeo said the labelling of exports from the West Bank will adhere to the US administration’s “reality-based foreign policy approach”. Not all settlement products will be made in Israel, but all exports from the West Bank’s Area C – whether made by Palestinians or Israelis – will be branded as such.“Labeling the products of Area C as being part of Israel is almost the last nail in the coffin of the opposition to annexation,” Kuttab added….Friedman said Pompeo’s statement, in effect, annexes both the land and the people who live in Area C. “This is essentially the US recognising Israeli sovereignty and Area C – all of it.”… “Palestinians living in Area C do not enjoy the same rights as Jewish Israelis in Area C – let alone Israelis inside Israel. Full stop. They live under a different legal regime. That is apartheid,” Friedman said. “At the same time, we still have a position which says: If you are someone who believes in one state from the river to the sea with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians, you’re an antisemite and you’re anti-Israel.”
Separating the West Bank from Gaza. In the same statement about labelling exports from Israel-Palestine, Pompeo ordered that Palestinian products from Areas A and B must be labelled separately from Palestinian products from Gaza. Kuttab said the move aims to dismiss the idea of distinguishable Palestinian territories in the land in order to push for “the total erasure of the Palestinian identity”.
Little about this apparent valedictory tour is surprising. The Trump administration dispensed with any pretense of being an honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians, making move after move that buttressed the agenda of Netanyahu’s right-wing government while further sidelining — and, often, actively undermining — Palestinian concerns. For Pompeo, the controversial set-piece in Israel is probably part of a longer-term domestic political game. The right-wing evangelical Kansan is speculated to be considering a potential 2024 presidential run and would wield his commitment to Israel’s settlers as a calling card to his religiously minded base….But Pompeo’s visit wasn’t just a symbolic swan song. It’s yet another instance where, as Trump officials admit, the outgoing administration is setting fresh fires for the incoming one to have to put out. Pompeo issued new State Department guidelines that goods exported to the United States from certain areas of the West Bank should be marked as a “Product of Israel” — something the European Union, for example, specifically avoids doing. By making this switch, Pompeo is essentially conferring U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over large tracts of land that could theoretically constitute a Palestinian state.
Mehdi asks Foundation for Middle East Peace president @LaraFriedmanDC if Mike Pompeo’s conspicuous pro-Israel hawkishness is less about winning over U.S. Jews and more about pandering to evangelical conservatives. “Yes,” she says. “I could make it a longer answer, but: Yes.”
Hanan Ashrawi, Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee, condemned yesterday the US top diplomat’s visit to an Israeli colonial settlement in the West Bank as an endorsement of land theft and plunder. “The visit of US Secretary to the occupied West Bank is a last ditch effort by the outgoing US administration to entrench its pattern of criminality, illegality, and direct complicity in the colonization of Palestine and dispossession of our people,” Ashrawi said in a press statement. “It is also a cynical exploitation by Pompeo to advance his own personal political goals as the new face of far right ideologues in the US,” she added.
Mike Pompeo chose to end his term as secretary of state with a tour of solidarity with Israel’s extreme right, while spitting on decades of pre-Trump U.S. foreign policy, on the norms of international law and on justice. On Wednesday he came across more like an extremist leader of the Yesha Council of settlements than as the foreign minister of the superpower. It’s a good thing that this will presumably be his last official visit. It’s a good thing that he will soon leave office.
The events of the last several days demonstrate clearly where we are and where we are heading. It is critical that Israel take advantage of where we are to secure its interests as it enters a new diplomatic reality in January.
Mike Pompeo on Thursday visited the Golan Heights, a first trip to the contested territory since Washington recognized Israeli sovereignty over the plateau last year….“You can’t stand here and stare out at what’s across the border and deny the central thing that President Donald Trump recognized, what the previous presidents have refused to do,” Pompeo said, referring to Trump’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the area last year. “This is a part of Israel and central part of Israel,” Pompeo said.
A United Nations General Assembly committee endorsed on Thursday by an overwhelming majority a draft resolution recognizing “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine.” 163 states voted in favor, including Canada, where Jewish groups were split between condemning the government’s decision to vote in favor and applauding it. Only five states – Israel, the United States, Micronesia, Nauru and the Marshall Islands – voted against the draft resolution, while Australia, Rwanda and eight others abstained. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki welcomed the vote, which he said “was a natural response from the international community to the Israeli occupation’s violations, as well as a response to the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the colonial Israeli settlements.”
Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation/Apartheid/Human Rights
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) continued to commit crimes and multi-faceted violations against Palestinian civilians and their properties, including raids into Palestinian cities that are characterized by excessive use of force, assault, abuse and attacks on civilians…This week, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented 215 violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law (IHL) by IOF and settlers in the oPt. It should be noted that the limitations due to the corona virus pandemic, has limited PCHR’s fieldworkers mobility and ability to conduct field documentation; therefore, the information contained in this report are only part of the continued IOF violations.
Since the start of the school year in September, the lives of these Palestinian children from the village of Ras a-Tin, east of Ramallah in the West Bank, have been transformed beyond recognition. Until then they had to walk more than seven kilometers each morning to school in the closest village, Mughayir, and then take the same route home – about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) back and forth in the heat and the cold, in the wind and the rain, and sometimes also in the face of settlers’ attacks along the way. So in late August the community decided to act: It would build its own school….Israel’s Civil Administration, which administers the West Bank, has already issued the demolition orders; the bulldozers are on the way.
Israeli forces today cracked down on an anti-settlement protest in Kafr Malik village, east of Ramallah, according to local sources. They confirmed that a large Israeli military force violently dispersed the participants of the rally called for to defend the villagers’ lands threatened with confiscation at Ras al-Tin area to make room for the construction of a new Israeli colonial settlement outpost. Soldiers opened fire towards the participants as the latter were marching at Ein Samiya spring on their way Ras al-Tin, injuring Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, a well-known activist from Bil‘in village, with a tear gas canister in the shoulder and causing others to suffocate from tear gas.
“Displace and replace” is the deeply exclusionary logic Israel has operated on since its inception. The efforts to displace Palestinians to make way for Israeli settlers is also intertwined with the well-established Israeli project to achieve and maintain ethnic purity. Thus, despite hopes held by some that US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Abraham Accords” might halt Israel’s anticipated annexation of large swaths of the West Bank, recently there has been an alarming spike in house demolitions in East Jerusalem and across the illegally occupied West Bank….Rather than holding Israel to account for its ongoing colonisation of Palestine, the international community’s most powerful actors are choosing to justify and rationalise its crimes against Palestinians. As a result, Israeli policies that blatantly violate human rights and international law are starting to be perceived as “normal” and even “righteous”. Colonisation is one of the most easily recognised forms of oppression in the world. However, to this day, the international community never truly acknowledged the colonial nature of Israel’s occupation and allowed it to violate international law with impunity. Thus, Israel continues its expansion into what is left of Palestine, undermining a fundamental principle of international law that bans states from taking land by force.
Protected by the army, Israeli settlers today infringed on privately-owned Palestinian land in Urif village in the north of the West Bank and worked on the land without the permission of its owners, according to a local official.
Inspectors from Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank impounded cows belonging to a Palestinian resident of the northern Jordan Valley earlier this month on the grounds that he had been grazing them in a nature reserve. However, the same Umm Zuka nature reserve has been used for grazing hundreds of cows by the residents of an unauthorized settlement outpost in the same area.
On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers invaded the Qalandia Refugee Camp, north of Jerusalem, injuring several Palestinian civilians who resisted the incursion. A large Israeli force stormed the camp, which was met with stones thrown by Palestinian youths, at the armored military vehicles, while the army fired live rounds, tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated steel rounds at those in opposition.
Lawfare/Stifling Dissent/Free Speech
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration Thursday that a boycott campaign against Israel is anti-Semitic has reignited a long-simmering debate over whether the movement is a nonviolent expression of free speech or an attempt to delegitimize Israel’s very existence….JVP Action, the political and advocacy arm of Jewish Voice for Peace, called Pompeo’s remarks a “last-ditch attempt” to shield the Israeli government from accountability. “As a proudly Jewish and pro-BDS organization, we know that movements from equality, justice and freedom are expressions of solidarity, not just for Palestinians but also for Jews,” the group said. “Organizing for Palestinian freedom is not — and never has been — anti-Semitic.”…“Americans have a long history of supporting peaceful boycotts to promote social justice and human rights, like the civil rights boycotts in Mississippi or those against apartheid in South Africa,” said Eric Goldstein, the acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration has no business trying to tar groups because they back boycotts.”
The Trump administration’s latest attempt to equate boycotts of Israel with anti-Semitism is part of a years-long push to criminalise criticism of Israel in the United States and abroad, legal and political experts say. Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal, a US-based legal advocacy group that supports Palestinian rights, said the measure aims to stifle advocacy for Palestinian rights. Khalidi said the measures to curtail pro-Palestinian organising in the US have evolved over time, with the most recent wave being an attempt “to distort and politicise anti-Semitism to include any and all criticism of the State of Israel”. The intent has been the same, however, she said: to prevent Palestinians from speaking out about rights abuses and holding Israel accountable for its policies.
On October 26, Premier Doug Ford’s government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in Ontario through an Order in Council (OIC), becoming the first province in Canada to do so….Ontario’s adoption of the IHRA definition isn’t the first act of its kind to target Palestinians, and it certainly won’t be the last. This is due in part to the unique brand of racism we face. Aside from the interlaced Islamophobic and orientalist bigotry we receive, we’re also often depicted as demographic threats in the West or terrorist sympathizers for simply owning our identity. We’re turned into the ‘other,’ and Zionist groups are allowed to attack us with impunity, and often with the complicity or active support of other institutions in Canada.
Palestine today recorded 1,472 Covid-19 cases and eight fatalities, the highest single-day rise since the pandemic outbreak in March….Among the new 1,472 cases, 111 cases were recorded in Hebron governorate, 200 in Nablus, 108 in Bethlehem, 18 in Qalqilia, 36 in Ramallah and al-Bireh, 110 in Jenin, 11 in Jericho and the Jordan Valley, 15 in Salfit, 47 in Tulkarem, 44 in Tubas, 754 in the Gaza Strip and 18 in Jerusalem suburbs.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has sent an urgent letter to Israel’s interior minister demanding he revokes a policy that excludes at-risk populations – notably Bedouin citizens of Israel living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab – from receiving COVID-19 food security grants. Adalah said in a press statement that the Israeli policy makes receipt of COVID-19 food security grants – essentially, food stamps – conditional upon one’s determined eligibility for municipal property tax rebates. Thus, this leaves citizens who live in unrecognized communities which do not fall under any municipal jurisdiction unable to obtain food assistance.
Nearly half of the new coronavirus cases detected in the past week have come from the Arab sector, the National Security Council said on Thursday, indicating a 6.5% positivity rate.
Looking Ahead to a Biden Administration
After four years of a sympathetic Trump administration, Israeli settlers are sobering up to a new reality and digging in for a fight ahead of a new U.S. president expected to revive traditional criticisms of their enterprise. Settler leaders across the West Bank and East Jerusalem predict a return to the old cat-and-mouse game in which they push to expand their communities until the White House pushes back.
President-elect Joe Biden is facing mounting hurdles to reenter the Iran nuclear deal as the Trump administration uses its final days in office to try to cement its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran. With just two months left in his presidency, President Trump is levying more sanctions and selling weapons to Iran’s enemies. He also reportedly even considered military action after international inspectors confirmed Iran’s supply of nuclear fuel has swelled since Trump withdrew from the deal.
The extent to which Biden withdraws some of the gifts granted to Israel during the Trump years, bestowed at the expense of American credibility, will test how serious he is about restoring America’s leadership role in the world. The inescapable truth is that President-elect Biden will not be able to reestablish trust in U.S. intentions and leadership if he keeps the policies of his norm-smashing predecessor. These include norms that were smashed to benefit Israel….It is difficult to imagine the State Department regarding products originating in Crimea as being made in Russia, even though Russian control of the territory is the “reality” of the situation today.
Normalization/Broader Middle East
The Trump administration has chosen the first leader of a U.S. investment fund aimed at advancing Israeli-Arab peace: a right-wing rabbi who once raised funds for an Israeli political group so extreme that even prominent pro-Israel leaders have cut off ties. Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, a senior adviser to David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, will head the Abraham Fund, sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The fund is an outgrowth of the recent normalization agreements between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations. One of its first projects will be to modernize the checkpoints that West Bank Palestinians must traverse, which the agency claims will ease their travel….Lightstone, 40, has a background in Jewish nonprofits, including the Orthodox Union and the National Council for Synagogue Youth. He is a former executive director of Shining Light, a U.S. fundraising entity with ties to Israel’s right wing. Shining Light once gave $1 million to Im Tirtzu, a political attack dog group that has long targeted harsh criticism at liberal Israeli activists. Im Tirtzu’s activities led John Hagee, the prominent right-wing pro-Israel pastor, to cut off the group long ago. An Israeli judge ruled that it is not slanderous to characterize Im Tirtzu as fascist.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa makes offer to host peace talks during meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, UAE crown prince in Abu Dhabi. Tripartite meeting focuses on consolidating unified Arab front against Iran, future strategy for incoming US administration. US President-elect Biden has said he plans to bring Washington back to 2015 nuclear deal, raising concerns among Persian Gulf and moderate Sunni Arab states.
The grumbling over the Trump administration’s plan to sell the United Arab Emirates over $23 billion in new weapons, ostensibly in return for its agreement to normalize relations with Israel, has reached a strident pitch, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle prepare legislation to make sure it never happens. Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Chris Murphy, along with Republican Senator Rand Paul, are expected to introduce four joint resolutions of disapproval this week to block the sales, which include not only 18 Reaper drones, but 50 F-35 strike fighters, and $10 billion worth of bombs and other munitions. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced similar legislation in the House Thursday that would prohibit the sales.
Last Thursday, Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed, in a TV interview available freely online and widely reported in the local and international press, that in the of Gulf states’ normalization of relations with Israel, the United States and another country are pressuring Islamabad to recognize Israel….Riyadh has been arm-twisting Islamabad for months, because Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to “normalize normalization,” before Saudi Arabia makes a formal move towards Israel. Pakistan, the world’s second most populous Muslim majority state, and the only nuclear-armed one, would provide a decent scoop for normalization, extending the new geopolitics into South Asia.
An Israeli airstrike in Syria Wednesday morning targeted an Iranian unit that Israel says is responsible for planting explosives on the Israeli side of the countries’ border on two separate occasions….Israel views these Iranian actions in the Syrian Golan Heights as crossing a red line, and served as the background for the decision to respond with relatively broad air strikes early Wednesday morning.
It was totally expected that Abbas would order the renewal of the security coordination at one stage or another. The cycles of anger at Israel and security forces and repression – followed by the renewal of the open links with them – are another survival tactic or presentation of the appearance of the visionary national leadership.Like the repetitive talk about elections or the reconciliation with Hamas, those cycles create an artificial, deceptive discourse about change, renewal, progress, steadfastness, etc. which tries to blur the entrenchment of the reality of the isolated Palestinian enclaves, which Israel designed over the years, and the inability today of the Palestinians, with their present leadership and lack of strategy, to change it. These fits of anger, with the heavy price the Palestinian public is always required to pay, and then the “making up” that brings relief for some of the public, and then repeats endlessly, create a false representation of activity by the Palestinian leadership, when it is in fact a desperate spinning of the wheels stuck in place.
The Palestinian Authority announced Nov. 17 that coordination with Israel has been restored after a six-month hiatus. On May 19, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had cut ties with Israel in protest of the US Mideast plan and the Israeli West Bank annexation plan. The PA’s decision to resume coordination, however, has damaged efforts to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The latter is now threatening to undermine the agreements reached between the two sides, namely in Tukey on Sept. 24, when they announced agreement to hold legislative and presidential elections, as well as elections for the Palestinian National Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, within six months.
Commentary / Long Read
Those looking to South Africa as a blueprint for the struggle against Israeli apartheid are doing a disservice by ignoring how racial capitalism has sustained inequality and oppression 30 years on.