What's left for Palestine after US recognises illegal Israeli settlements?

  • Murat Sofuoglu
  • 19 Nov 2019

With the recent US recognition of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as legal, Palestinians are asking themselves what Washington and its allies think about their place in the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets heads of illegal Jewish settlers at the Alon Shvut settlement, in the Gush Etzion block in the occupied West Bank November 19, 2019. ( Menahem Kahana / Reuters )

Washington has now moved to recognise Jewish settlements in the West Bank as legal, the latest in a string of policy shifts under the Trump administration. 

Under President Donald Trump, the US has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and accepted Israeli sovereignty over the occupied-Golan Heights, a Syrian territory. The US has shifted to exclusively pro-Tel Aviv positions on several crucial fronts. 

“Nothing is left for Palestine and that is what Israel wants - they want us to leave,” says Diana Buttu, a Canadian-Palestinian human rights lawyer, who used to work as an advisor to the Palestinian Authority. 

Buttu was not surprised by the recent US move, seeing it as the ultimate implementation of longstanding pro-Israeli Washington policies.  

“We all saw this latest US decision coming, not for years, but for decades. Each US administration, since Reagan, has pandered to Israel on settlements and delivered the message to Israel that ‘might is right’ and that it will be rewarded for violating international law,” Buttu told TRT World.  

“Throughout the negotiations, rather than imposing sanctions on Israel for expanding settlements, Palestinians were forced to negotiate boundaries around those expanding settlements,” she said. 

Those settlements in the West Bank were essentially designed by Israel for a full-fledged invasion and the country’s hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that underlying policy in September saying that Tel Aviv will finally annex the Palestinian enclave.  

Palestinian man Ali Farun, 74, stands near a section of the Israeli barrier in al-Eizariya town close to the illegal Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, July 27, 2019.(Reuters)

The timing of the US recognition of settlements is not coincidental. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is currently facing multiple corruption investigations and did not manage to secure a majority in the April or the rerun September elections. As a result, he could not form a government and needs a boost from his American ally. 

Next week, the country’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide whether to prosecute Netanyahu. The Likud party leader could use whatever support he can get from overseas. 

“The US is doing it now in order to fulfill Netanyahu checklist of desires,” Buttu observed. 

“We said it then and we say it now: settlements are illegal and should be treated as such. Now, more than at any time ever before, the world must finally start imposing sanctions on Israel in order to show Israel and the US that laws have meaning,” Buttu added. 

An Israeli machinery demolishes an under-construction Palestinian house near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 19, 2019.(Reuters)

Palestinians stay and won’t leave

Despite the enormous pressure from Israel and divided leadership, most Palestinians still want to stay in their homeland at any cost. 

“The truth is that despite decades and decades of violent Israeli actions, the vast majority of Palestinians are not leaving and are not seeking asylum and are not looking for alternative places. They are staying here,” said Antony Loewenstein, a Jerusalem-based independent journalist and author. 

“Some are leaving, particularly in Gaza, but the majority of Palestinians are not going anywhere,” Loewenstein told TRT World. 

Despite a grim political outlook for Palestinians at the moment there is a growing global solidarity with the Palestinian cause, which has yet to produce tangible results, but is helping them fight the occupation, Loewenstein added. 

Palestinian man Mohammad Awad, 64, poses for a photo at his farm in the village of Wadi Fukin with the illegal Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit in the background, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, July 21, 2019. "How can I let a person steal my land, live in it and enjoy it, and live with him in peace?" he said.(Reuters)

Loewenstein said Israelis have a “delusion” that some kind of economic peace with Palestinians can bring ultimate peace.

“Israel will give 250,000 jobs to Palestinians to work in Israeli settlements and the hope is that Palestinians will accept that and they go home happy,” Loewenstein said. 

“The truth is that is just delusional. But that is somewhat increasingly the [current] Israeli Zionist vision that ‘We can buy off Palestinians’. The Trump administration feels exactly the same way.” 

The hard-right Zionists have recently shown an unwielding reluctance to face the reality of Israeli Arabs, who are Israeli citizens. Netanyahu recently threatened his main rival, Benny Gantz, that if he forms a government with the Joint List, an Israeli Arab party, it could create an “existential threat” to the country. 

“Arabs can be Zionists and support the state of Israel, but they aren’t Zionists and they don’t support the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told his supporters in a meeting on Sunday. 

“Of course Israel would never accept this,” said Buttu, in a response to the question of whether Israel would accept Palestinians even if they became Zionists. 

“No one would ever accept it and we should not be asked to.”