Netanyahu said yesterday that he was seizing a “unique, one-off opportunity” given him by the Trump administration, which openly condones Israeli annexation of occupied territories in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

During the Obama administration, the “Palestinian Territories” were included on the list of Near East Countries & Areas on the US State Department’s website. The State Department recently removed any mention of the Palestinian territories, referring to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, from the list. This unprecedented move means that the occupied Palestinian territories are not even recognized as an “area.” 

While many observers in the past believed that Palestine would have achieved statehood by 2019, under the increasingly extreme Likud-led government, emboldened by an equally extreme administration in Washington, things seem to be moving faster than ever in the wrong direction. A spokesperson for the State Department has said that the website is under construction and that the omission of Palestine from the list does not represent US policy. However, when asked if the Palestinian territories would be restored to the list, the response came merely that the site was being updated. 

It is unclear when exactly the listing for the territories was removed. It was active until at least February 2019, according to an archived version of the page. The link attached to the territories now redirects to a message about modernization.

The Trump White House has encouraged the increasingly right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu to ramp up its expansionist policies and rhetoric.

It has been clear for decades that the majority of Israeli governments have held the total annexation of Palestinian territories as a long-term goal, and most involved in politics in the Middle East are aware that the supposed drive for a “two-state solution” is not sincere (whether they admit it or not). At most times, Israel has been able to count on the diplomatic, military, and financial support of the US, which sees the Mediterranean state as a key ally in controlling affairs in the Middle East.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu again pledged to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.

The Trump White House is more extreme in its support for Israeli expansion than most past administrations. It has encouraged the increasingly right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to ramp up its expansionist policies and rhetoric. Indeed on Tuesday, Netanyahu again pledged to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, dramatically reshaping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu on Tuesday pledging to annex Palestinian territory

Netanyahu on Tuesday pledging to annex Palestinian territory

Under Trump, the US has cancelled virtually all of its annual aid spending for Palestinian organizations (around $400 million annually) and has moved its embassy to Jerusalem in an act regarded by many as a needless provocation. This latest move, if deliberate, is a continuation of that trend. 

The Trump administration has also retreated from the official narrative of seeking a two-state solution, as a long-term outcome of peace negotiations.

After journalist Aaron Magid noticed the change on the State Department Website, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary-general Saeb Erekat said on Twitter that the update was made to advance the agenda of the illegal settlement movement, which seeks to annex the entire West Bank to Israel. The Trump administration has also retreated from the official narrative of seeking a two-state solution, as a long-term outcome of peace negotiations, and has welcomed the Palestinians back to the negotiating table only on the condition that they accept Trump’s December 2017 declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people. Such statements and policy decisions are surely made in full knowledge that, if Israel were to take full control of Jerusalem, a two-state solution would be impossible. 

The US has also closed the consulate in Jerusalem through which it had conducted its liaisons with Palestinian officials for some three decades. The visa of Husam Zolot, the PLO’s representative to the US, has also been revoked along with the visas of his family. 

The Trump Administration is carrying out an unprecedented attack on Palestinian hopes of independent statehood. 

It is not inconceivable that recognition of the Palestinian territories was removed from the State Department website because of technical issues, as the US government claims. What is clear, however, is that the US cannot be considered an impartial broker in the dispute over the Israeli occupation of Palestine, now in its sixth decade. Regardless of what the truth is in this case, the Trump Administration is carrying out an unprecedented attack on Palestinian hopes of independent statehood.