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With Trump's help, Netanyahu is making the occupation permanent

Netanyahu may have succeeded in convincing Israelis that facts on the ground can defeat Palestinian national aspirations. He forgot to tell them that holding millions under endless occupation is unsustainable.

By Susie Becher

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump's departure, May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump’s departure, May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Regardless of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes good on his promise to annex areas of the West Bank during his new term in office, the very fact that he made such a statement is damaging. Together with his friend in the White House, Netanyahu has been slowly whittling away at the principles that are internationally recognized as the basis for any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. By uttering the word “annexation,” he has shattered yet another taboo, borrowing the unfathomable from the domain of the extreme right wing and inserting it into the heart of the public discourse on the conflict.

Netanyahu has succeeded in lulling the Israeli public into believing that facts on the ground can defeat Palestinian national aspirations and outweigh international law. Helping him surgically remove the occupation from the body politic is Chief Anesthesiologist Donald Trump. Working hand in hand, these two are marketing “alternative facts” that the public is buying hook, line, and sinker.

First came Trump’s declaration that the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel took the issue off the table. Then the word “occupied” was expunged from State Department documents dealing the occupation and replaced with the term “controlled.”

Next, we heard the president say that extending Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights will improve Israel’s ability to meet security challenges, while Netanyahu added the lie that a country can lay claim to territory captured in a defensive war. This was followed by Trump’s statement that a Netanyahu victory in the elections will be good for peace. And finally, we heard Secretary of State Pompeo say that Bibi’s annexation plans won’t hurt the chances of the so-called “Deal of the Century.”

One could scoff at a delusional leader who thinks that his pronouncements become truth just because he said so. But there is great danger in the public’s acceptance of these distortions as conventional wisdom, even if they are easily dispelled.

Steven Munchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and daughter of President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, reveal a dedication plaque at the official opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Steven Munchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and daughter of President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, reveal a dedication plaque at the official opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Trump didn’t take Jerusalem off the table; he moved it to center stage. The EU and United Nations were quick to condemn the U.S. move and reassert that the status of the city must be resolved through negotiations between the parties. Even Pope Francis felt compelled to voice his alarm.

In some parallel universe, there might be truth to Trump’s statement that by recognizing Jerusalem he is advancing the peace process, but those of us who live in the real world know that the Palestinians will never accept Israeli sovereignty over the eastern part of the city. The good news is that despite Netanyahu’s expectations that Highway 1 would be jammed with vans moving embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to date, only Guatemala has followed in the steps of the United States.

And no matter what euphemisms the State Department may use, the West Bank is not simply under benign Israeli administration. According to the Hague Regulations, which are considered the embodiment of the rules of customary international law, occupation applies to territory that is under the authority of a hostile army. Add to that the fact that well over 600,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are living in the West Bank in defiance of international law, and then consider that the Palestinians are subjected to restrictions on freedom of movement, land expropriations, home demolitions, expulsions, and the list goes on.

Members of the Druze community in the Golan Heights protest the decision of President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the territory, Majdal Shams, March 23, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Members of the Druze community in the Golan Heights protest the decision of President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the territory, Majdal Shams, March 23, 2019. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

As for the Golan, according to international law an occupying power cannot apply sovereignty regardless of whether the territory was captured in a defensive or offensive war. Even those who lament the failure of previous peace negotiations with Syria recognize that now is not the time for another attempt, and most agree that the Iranian presence in Syria has increased the threat to Israel’s security.

However, Israel is not under any pressure to withdraw its troops at this time. The security challenges Israel is facing are sufficiently met by its current military deployment in the north. The meaningless U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty actually did nothing other than poke a slumbering bear and set the stage for the annexation of the West Bank.

And then we come to the laughable statement that Netanyahu’s reelection will be good for peace. Peace with whom? During Netanyahu’s previous term, the Knesset passed several laws tightening Israel’s hold over the occupied territories. Now Netanyahu is intent on putting together an even more extremist government that may broaden Israel’s cozy relations with the European far-right and its ilk that will bury any chance of peace with the Palestinians.

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The one statement that may actually hold water is Pompeo’s. The reason that annexation won’t hurt the Trump deal is because, according to media reports, the “Deal of the Century” is not a peace accord — it’s a business plan that includes economic incentives and some degree of administrative autonomy for the Palestinians. If an independent Palestinian state and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank are not part of the package, formalizing the occupation through annexation won’t make the situation on the ground much worse, but it will mean the death of the two-state solution. That, however, apparently won’t interfere with Trump’s plan for the region.

The fact that Israel has been getting away with flouting international law and that the U.S. administration is legitimizing Israeli decisions does not mean that the future is bright. Netanyahu and Trump are selling the public a load of hogwash. The zeitgeist according to ‘Trumpanyahu’ is about recognizing reality, but the duo is hiding the most important fact: the oppression of the Palestinian people is unsustainable (never mind untenable!) long term, and if the occupation doesn’t end through diplomacy, it will end in a bloodbath.

Susie Becher is a member of the Policy Working Group and Managing Editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      If you knowingly put your trust in con men, as Bibi and Trump indisputably are, you get what you deserve. The Americans and Israelis who voted for and support these con men get what they deserve.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Ben:
        The occupation became permament when the JORDANIANS magically transmuted into “fakestinyans” in the mid-1970s. That act of collective rebranding effectively “doomed” them to experience decades of Israeli occupation. Eventually, Jordanian (fakestinyan) mass repatriation back to the East Bank is their only escape from the dead end they themselves created.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          This kind of thing is just trolling. Not worthy of a reply.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            A vacuous reply

            Reply to Comment
    2. itshak Gordine

      For a Jew who knows History, it is not a question of occupation but of liberation of Judea and Samaria. Let us not forget that this region was annexed to the Hashemite Kingdom in 1951 and that on this occasion no pseudo “Palestinian” state was ever installed there. It is only when the Jewish people claim their inheritance that all counterfeiters make false claims.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tom

        @Lewis, whatever you call them (jordanian, fakestinian, arabs) thoses people and families lives in your lovely Judea and Samaria (and more generaly speaking in israel), since centeries. You have to deal with that.

        And if your solution is genocide or mass deportation, just assume it, but you don’t need to re-write the history.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Living in a territory for a long time does not guarantee eternal sovereignty.
          The French cannot return to Algeria
          The Germans cannot reclaim East Prussia
          The Turks cannot resettle WEstern Thrace
          After we kick out the squatters, they will never go back to Judea and Samaria

          Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            Then Jews deserve even less sovereignty… since they were there even shorter. Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot: GOD is your landlord.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tom

            So explain me why european jewish people have more right than arabs living there since centeries or millenia ?

            Reply to Comment
    3. Tommy Goldberg

      As if the occupation was truly meant to be temporary before.

      I truly fail to see the benefit of maintaining the illusion of a temporary, legal occupation that could easily be ended if we just negotiated a little more. Few people understand or care about the legal distinctions between occupation and annexation.

      Everybody understands “one man, one vote.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. itshak Gordine

      You speak of occupation by omitting to point out that the majority of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria are under the authority and the government of Ramallah.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Orwellian baloney. We’ve been over this.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          A pavlovian reply from Ben, there.
          He is our in-house Appeaser of the Ramallah-based mafia, led by Shoah-denying PhD, Dr Mahmud Abbas.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Of course not. I’m for human rights, intelligently defended, as is this Magazine. You, on the other hand, in addition to dumbing everything down, are trying to normalize criminality, as I explained in my reply to Halevy on May 19 here:
            https://972mag.com/ill-never-forget-from-gazas-return-march/141443/

            We are not inclined to cooperate with this insidious normalizing project by pretending that what you say is normal or acceptable or that you are a normal, acceptable person.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Yes, Ben is for human rights of Holocaust-Deniers and Butchers of Olympic Athletes.

            Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          No it is an undeniable reality proven by the facts. Most of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria are under Ramallah’s governance. You can not disguise the truth to satisfy your most unhealthy fantasies.

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            they live under the p.a. except when they’re in idf military jails without charge or trial, except when they have to walk through checkpoints to get to school or work. ‘israeli sovereignty’ over the land doesn’t grant the ramallah government a shred of legitimacy, it accentuates apartheid all the more.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Most of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria are under Ramallah’s governance.”

            This is pure denial of the occupation. Period. There is nothing to discuss if you cannot admit this.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            No, I can not admit what you are saying. In zone A the Arabs live under their own government (“Palestinian” Authority) which capital is Ramallah, its security services, its schools, its army, its ministers, its passports, its radios and its TV. To claim that zone A and Ramallah are occupied by Israel are lies. It must be remembered that the vast majority of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria live under the authority of the Ramallah administration. I must admit that this neutralizes your verbal clichés about “occupation”, etc. etc. We can not disguise truth and reality on the ground to please Ben and his inexhaustible logoorhea

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            again, they live under the palestinian authority except when they’re in israeli military jails without charge or trial, except when they travel from area a to area a through an idf checkpoint with armed teenagers policing their movements.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “To claim that zone A and Ramallah are occupied by Israel are lies.”

            Gaza, Area A, Area B, Area C and East Jerusalem are all Israeli-occupied territories. To this day. This is indisputable. Israel is an Occupying Power in and over all these areas, under international law and bound by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, because it retains effective control over all these territories and over crucial aspects of civilian life. This control did not end in any of these areas after the Oslo Accords. The occupying Israeli army retains to this day brutal, total control over all borders and airspace, and enters every one of these areas at will. Whenever it wants. And to do whatever it wants. According to the Hague Regulations, ‘A territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised’. International jurisprudence has clarified that the mere repositioning of troops is not sufficient to relieve an occupier of its responsibilities if it retains its overall authority and the ability to reassert direct control at will.

            Anyone who knows what life on the ground is actually like knows that it is preposterous to claim that any part of the West Bank is not occupied by the Israeli army. The Area A/B/C distinction is merely an administrative scheme exploited by Israel to pretend it is deigning to give the Palestinians “autonomy” but it is an utterly controlled, occupied “autonomy” and Oslo was only ever used by Israel in bad faith to further its creeping annexation.

            What is a “lie” is to claim otherwise.

            Reply to Comment
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