First things first, just to get the formalities out of the way, I apologise (to all of those who care enough) for the long break in between posting blogs, I’m sure you all know how it is having the work ethic of a student: procrastination and last minute ‘oh s***, I have work to do?’. Also a bit (very) late, but I hope all of you had a good Christmas and New Year and that your return to uni has not been too depressing!
Anyway, I’ll just drop the bombshell: Israel-Palestine. An ever-relevant, undying part of international relations is under a new period of change given the inauguration of President Trump and the recent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on the 15th of February. This is particularly pertinent since the US is the world’s largest donor to Israel, providing $121 billion (not adjusted for inflation) of foreign aid to them since the end of WWII up until mid-2014 – as calculated by Jeremy Sharp at The Congressional Research Centre (CRC). In addition to the fact that it is one of the most central actors in influencing and shaping the outcome of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
As if the US foreign aid (bilateral military aid, Foreign Military Assistance, whatever you want to call it) budget was not enough already, in September 2016 the Obama administration agreed a deal with Netanyahu to increase the pay packet to from $3.1 billion a year to $3.8 billion a year from 2019 to 2028, a move which will only deepen the ties between the two states. This is “the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history” (US State’s department), which really does profoundly demonstrates how comfortably in bed the two states are. However, this set off, as seemingly with every move made with regards to this conflict, outrage from pro-Palestinian groups who claimed this deal was nothing short of rewarding the Israeli government for their illegal settlements and occupation of supposed Palestinian territory.
This mammoth deal brings with it considerable confusion. A month before the deal was brokered the White House stated that the continued construction of settlements are a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two-state solution”, a statement which is not reflected in the magnitude of the deal whatsoever. Better yet, the US abstained on UNSC resolution 2334, a momentous resolution demanding the cessation of illegal Israeli settlements. The resolution affirmed that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory since 1967 (that encompasses East Jerusalem) has “no legal validity” and it insisted that “all Israeli settlement activities” were stopped since it is “essential to salving the two state solution”.
This goes against the general course of history as the US has time and again vetoed UN resolutions critical of Israel, yet with the Obama administration only one veto has been used in 2011. Nevertheless, with regards to historical discourse and the shaping of the Israel-Palestine conflict this move did provide some much needed morality, even if it only appears as a token move. In this sense, the US desire for the improvement of Israeli security actually aligns with Palestinian safety interest. In other words, the desire of the US, expressed “privately and publically” (Samatha Power, US Ambassador) for some fifty years, for Israel to stop with illegal settlements may be self-interested in terms of US’ security concerns, but it could aid Palestine as they would be able to regain some of their stolen land.
No surprise Netanyahu completely disagreed with the US’ abstention. He said that “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution” and that they would not abide by the term, yet again, no surprise there. And carrying on this trend, Netanyahu accused the Obama administration of colluding with other states to pass this resolution, an upbraiding bred out of petulance, but that’s what militarism is about. There is no wonder why Netanyahu was expressing his eagerness to work with the Trump administration.
Trump, following his meeting with Netanyahu, expressed his indifference to what number of state solution was chosen as the preferred route, claiming he likes “the one that both parties like”. This plays exceedingly favourably into Netanyahu’s hands, after the largest Foreign Military Assistance deal wast struck up, he express his desire to try and increase the pay packet from $3.8 billion a year to $4.5 billion under the next administration. This attitude of powerful untouchability is further expressed in Netanyahu’s dismissal of Trump’s request to hold back on the illegal settles as it is not the “core of the conflict” (said at the press conference following their meeting). Instead of hold back, the Israeli government plans to build 6,000 more Jewish homes on the West Bank, a greater number than what was planned prior to Trump’s presidency and an action in line with that of the belief of being able to get more money from the administration succeeding Obama.
Netanyahu is a dangerous character, his highhanded dismissiveness is problematic. I am sure many of you have seen the video from Channel 4 news, which was posted on Facebook on the 11th of August 2016, of Netanyahu expressing his belief that “Israel cares more about Palestinians than their own leaders”. If you couple Netanyahu’s and Trump’s attitudes then this surely spells an era of even greater perilous uncertainty for the potential of any form of reasonable resolution to the conflict.
To exacerbate the matter further, and once more create contradictory confusion from an international perspective separate from the influence of the US-Israel relationship, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to attributed the temple atop of Temple Mount to be Jewish (as said on Israel Radio). This came even after UNESCO declared the Al-Aksa Mosque to be of complete Islamic heritage. Guterres statement will only provoke more indignation from the Palestinian and embitter the hostility more.
These are but a few factors affecting this torrid mess, and as Rashid Khalidi wrote in the Guardian: “this problem did not start in 1967, and it will not disappear simply by resolving the settlement issue”, as demonstrated by the Temple mount contention, one example out of a myriad of issues. As the matter goes, with Netanyahu’s stubborn ruthlessness, Trump’s inadequacy and the UN’s incompetency, people are going to be chanting “Free, Free Palestine” for a long time to come.