Palestinians view tacit US approval of settlement activity as a death blow to peace
The Trump administration has reportedly approved Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s intent to authorize more than 3,000 new housing starts in Jewish communities located on the West Bank, on land Israel conquered in the 1967 war that is claimed by the Palestinians for their future state. The green light – albeit somewhat conditional – nevertheless represents a significant departure from the policies of all previous American administrations which have frowned upon or outright rejected the Israeli “settlement enterprise.”
Of particular note is that reports indicate the Trump White House is not only giving approval to announcements of new housing at intervals of “several months,” but that the expansions will include communities that are not agreed-upon to remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future peace agreement, as has been the norm until now.
Speaking to The Media Line, Nabil Amro, a former information minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA), asserted that if Netanyahu continues to expand settlements in the West Bank without any reaction from the US, it would lead to a weakening of President Donald Trump’s capability of achieving a historical deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Trump’s support for settlement is a sign that the US is okay with it, and that creates problems,” he declared.
Amro is concerned that Netanyahu will continue to expand settlements while Trump is preparing his peace initiative, which he anticipates “will be less than what the Palestinians deserve and it will not work. The timing is suitable now, especially with Egyptian support for a peace initiative.”
“It is imperative,” Amro concluded, “for Trump to announce the outlines of an initiative and ways to implement it.”
The Palestinian leadership is not pleased with Washington’s reaction towards, what it termed, “Israeli violations.” Last month, the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned statements made by Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, who declared that the settlements in the West Bank are “Israel’s true defensive wall.” The ministry charged that Liberman’s comments are unnecessarily provocative and prove Israel’s intent to confiscate additional Palestinian land.
Nabil Sha’ath, a senior Palestinian official who serves on the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, confirmed to The Media Line that until now, although President Trump hasn’t revealed anything about his forthcoming peace initiative, the Palestinians do not see indications that his plan will be fruitful. “Building settlements on our land without any American condemnation, unlike the previous administrations, will not lead to anything. Until now Trump hasn’t even mentioned the two-state solution.”
Sha’ath cited the recent reaction to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s controversial comment that “Israel is only occupying two percent of Palestinian land,” suggesting “that doesn’t encourage us to expect any solution.”
According to Sha’ath, if there is to be a solution, “it should start with recognizing the illegal Israeli occupation in the West Bank. There is no need for an agreement without that.”
Many Israelis insist that the building of new settlements is a necessity. Speaking to The Media Line, Yishai Fleisher, a spokesperson for the Jewish community in Hebron, explained that building new housing units in the West Bank is meant to give the Jewish people a decent life in their ancestral homeland. “The citizens of Israel have given a mandate to the Netanyahu government to build in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and that is exactly what the government is doing,” he stressed.