Since US President Donald Trump unilaterally declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has garnered a string of concessions which have accelerated the colonization of Palestine’s stolen land. The strategy of pitting the US and Israel against the international community has created an unprecedented distortion of the so-called Palestinian question and precipitated further international alienation from the Palestinian people’s political rights. Settlement expansion—the core strategy of Israel’s colonial project—recently gained a vantage point over the international rhetoric condemning Palestinian dispossession while failing to hold Israel accountable. The recent declaration by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the latest in a series of political concessions which have accelerated Israeli colonization. “The establishing of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo stated, citing no legal basis and in contravention of decades of pronouncements by various international bodies.
Palestinians are now facing the prospects of further Israeli settlement expansion, and annexation, fully supported by the US.
It has been three years since UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) (UNSC) declared that Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967 had no legal validity. Yet, Palestinians are now facing the prospects of further Israeli settlement expansion, and annexation, fully supported by the US. UNSC Resolution 2334 had stipulated that “it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” Israel, however, has never defined itself as static. Its response to the resolution was to pledge further settlement construction, while directing a barrage of onslaughts at the outgoing Obama administration for failing to support Israel overtly. The US’s abstention from the vote, which by no means indicated support for Palestinians, overshadowed what was at stake for the colonized population. The Palestinian Authority and the international community celebrated Obama’s departing gesture over a non-binding resolution prematurely. Meanwhile, following the perfunctory Israeli outrage at the US departure from the norm, the Israeli government was seeking political advantage with incoming President Trump.
International law is no longer enough to safeguard Palestinians’ rights.
US collusion with Israel under Trump, commencing with the unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the colonial state’s capital, have placed Palestinians in a harsh predicament. International law is no longer enough to safeguard Palestinians’ rights. Settlement expansion and annexation cannot be separated from the rest of Israel’s colonial violence against the Palestinian people, which it is normalizing with US help and silence from the international community. Settlement expansion and annexation must be considered part of the entire framework of Israel’s violations against the Palestinian people. Failure to do so normalizes the reality of colonial violence, which is promoted by the US and the international community’s refusal to hold Israel accountable. On one hand, the so-called Deal of the Century promoted by the Trump administration is facilitating Israel’s demands, whether they be annexation (which US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman already promoted last June) or the coercing of Palestinians into humanitarian aid while redefining what constitutes a Palestinian refugee, as Jared Kushner intended.
Along with the US’s plans to facilitate Israeli colonization, there are decades of complicit silence by the international community.
Along with the US’s plans to facilitate Israeli colonization, there are decades of complicit silence by the international community. In addition, both the US and the international community have been aided by the imposition of the “two-state compromise,” which prioritizes Israel’s settler-colonial state above other issues. Hence, while the US House of Representatives countered the Trump administration’s decision to declare the settlements “not illegal,” it still backed the internationally recognized and accepted two-state framework. Once again, despite the refusal to back the deal of the century, US representatives chose to back state and settler complicity, in line with the international consensus. Annexation, therefore, has a history that runs deeper that this year’s overt concessions suggestions. Likewise, settlement expansion knows its roots in the early colonization process before Israel was established. The 1947 Partition Plan, international recognition of Israel and subsequent insistence that the Palestinians abide by the two-state framework have all allowed Israel the opportunity to continue dispossessing Palestinians of their land for 70 years.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov reported in June that the largest settlement expansion plans, demolitions, and confiscation of Palestinian property occurred in 2019 between March 25 and June 10.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov reported in June that the largest settlement expansion plans, demolitions, and confiscation of Palestinian property occurred in 2019 between March 25 and June 10. Since UN Resolution 2334 was passed three years ago in December 2016, Israel has released plans for 22,000 settlement units, according to a recent report that ties settlement expansion to the obliteration of the two-state paradigm. In Hebron, Palestinians are planning to legally oppose the construction of a settlement on Shuhada Road. The project was approved by Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who described it as a means to “bring Jewish life back to Jewish property in Hebron.” In fact, Palestinians in Hebron are assaulted by both the military and settlers alike. The absence of protection for Palestinians has led residents to abandon their homes in search of relative safety elsewhere, according to B’Tselem. Additionally, the second half of 2019 indicated an increase in settler violence against Palestinians, including destruction of property. This information has been imparted to the international community, yet the UN continues to absolve Israel from responsibility despite the obvious violations of international law. Recently, Israel attempted to portray its militarized access to Palestinian farming lands as protection for Palestinians from settlers, while failing to address the state-endowed impunity for settlers who deliberately damage or destroy Palestinian crops and fields, thus endangering Palestinian livelihoods. A lot has been said about the fragmentation of the Palestinian struggle, both politically and socially. This fragmentation has not happened in a vacuum. At an international level, Palestinians are defined by external actors who have manipulated colonization and its ramifications into a project of illusory state building and humanitarian aid. International opposition to the US-Israeli collusion is not a collective stance in favor of Palestinians’ political rights. Both the two-state compromise and the Deal of the Century provide impunity for Israel and its settler population. It can safely be said that either option will ultimately lead to the same conclusion: the collective international refusal to uphold the Palestinians’ right to a political solution, rather than Trump’s belligerence, is what will ultimately present Israel with the blueprint for its final colonization.
Palestinians have been betrayed countless times by statements regurgitating international law without applying it in practice.
The international community’s retort regarding the US decision to recognize settlements as not illegal has been to affirm that the Trump administration’s position does not change anything in terms of international law and consensus. Yet, Palestinians have been betrayed countless times by statements regurgitating international law without applying it in practice. While the US decision does not alter the legal terms, Israel has the backing to de facto alter, control, and/or nullify Palestinian property and land on the ground. This is what the international community should be addressing. Anything less must be counted as yet another betrayal in the long list of deceitful schemes promoted by international institutions, as they continue using what is termed as “the question of Palestine” merely to sustain their diplomatic agendas.