US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week announced yet another radical shift in Washington’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by way of saying that the United States “was accepting realities on the ground”.
What the mendacious and cynical Pompeo omits to add is that the Trump administration has been dramatically fueling the change in “realities” – specifically the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and the demolition of Palestinian homes.
This week the top US diplomat declared that Washington would no longer adopt the international consensus position, backed by several UN resolutions, that Israeli settlement-building and occupation of Palestinian territory was a violation of international law. Washington is henceforth recognizing Israeli settlements as legitimate.
The move overturns more than four decades of official US policy which adhered to the UN-backed position of condemning Israeli occupation in the Palestinian West Bank and in East Jerusalem as illegal and a violation of the Geneva Convention.
Since the 1967 Six War, successive Israeli governments have overseen a relentless process of annexing Palestinian territory. Over that period, Palestinian lands have diminished and become increasingly fragmented with little contiguity that would be normal for a future state. There are estimated to be around 200 Israeli new-build settlements of towns and villages with a population of 600,000 Jewish settlers who have usurped Palestinian land and properties. The UN has repeatedly condemned the annexation and occupation as illegal, to no avail.
The latest move by the Trump administration is a flagrant repudiation of UN resolutions and international law. It follows previous declarations by President Trump recognizing Israeli claims to Jerusalem as its capital, as well as Israel’s annexation of Syrian territory in the Golan Heights.
“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” said Pompeo 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.”
That is an astounding dereliction of international law by the American government. The “hard truth” that Pompeo ignores is that US administrations have constantly undermined “judicial resolution of the conflict” because they have, to varying degrees, over the decades pandered to Israeli criminal occupation of Palestinian lands.
What the Trump administration is doing is not entirely unprecedented. Successive American presidents have merely paid lip service to a supposed peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, declaring their support for a “two-state solution” and presenting Washington as some kind of “honest broker”. The reality is that Washington has consistently undermined Palestinian national rights by its systematic bias towards Israel, indulging the latter’s criminal policies of occupation and military aggression towards Palestinian population.
However, Trump and his coterie of Middle East aides have taken the American bias and complicity with Israel to naked levels. Part of that is no doubt payback for the multi-million-dollar funding of Trump’s 2016 election campaign by Jewish-American billionaire and arch-Zionist Sheldon Adelson.
Israeli peace groups have recorded a surge in Israeli expansion of settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past three years of the Trump administration. Demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli bulldozers are at a record high.
There is an imperative business reason for this. President Donald Trump has personally invested in Israeli settlements, as have his ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and the White House’s special envoy to the region, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.
One of those settlements is at Beit El which is described as “one of the most aggressive” in terms of expansionist scope. It overlooks the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank which is supposed to be the administrative seat of the Palestinian Authority.
Trump, Friedman and the Kushner family have in the past funneled millions of dollars into Beit El and other Israeli settlements. In return, Israeli financial companies have made huge investments in Jared Kushner’s family real-estate business back in the US. For example, Menora Mivtachim, a pension and insurance firm, invested $30 million in apartments in Maryland owned by the Kushner family.
Jared Kushner officially stepped away from his family’s property conglomerate when he was appointed by his father-in-law as special envoy on the Middle East “peace process”. But few would believe his future wealth will not benefit from investments in and from Israel. He is still a beneficiary of trusts that have holdings in Kushner properties, notes Haaretz newspaper.
It seems incredible given this blatant conflict of interest that Kushner has been tasked with producing a “peace plan” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Trump had previously boasted about as being the “deal of the century”. That plan has since wilted to non-existence. The media don’t even talk about its expected publication, so far off the radar is it.
The latest move by the Trump administration to effectively reward and accelerate further Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory has American self-interest and profit written all over it. It mirrors Trump’s declaration in March this year recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, where there is irrefutable evidence that Trump and the Zionist clique in the White House have major business interests in oil exploration and production in that contested region.
Russia warned this week that Washington’s policy is inflaming further conflict amid an intensification of air strikes by Israel on Gaza where more than 30 people have been killed over the past week, including one Palestinian family of three adults and five children. The bloodshed makes Pompeo’s announcement all the more repulsive.
The Arab League and the European Union have also condemned the unilateral rejection of international law by the US. Jordan, Egypt and other Arab states said the United States has forfeited its right to act as a peace broker in the region.
The “reality on the ground” – to use a talking point favored by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and now Mike Pompeo – is that the US is an accomplice in Israel’s illegal occupation and war crimes. Even more heinous, the US policy is being driven by Trump’s family business profits.