Netanyahu's land grab makes peace impossible | Moran
No one on either side of the endless conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has a practical plan to end the bloody standoff.
But we do know what steps snuff out any hope. One is when Hamas fires rockets from Gaza into civilian neighborhoods in southern Israel. Another is when Israel uses its vast military superiority to grab Palestinian land.
So, it is immensely disappointing that the prime minister of Israel, our ally in this fight, is promising to formally annex territory in the occupied West Bank if he wins re-election. That would make it impossible for Palestine to form a state, while discrediting any Palestinian leader who works towards reconciliation. If Israel wants to give up on peace and ensure that violence is a permanent feature of life in the region, this is precisely the way to achieve it.
The fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made this announcement during the final week of Israel’s election campaign is telling. The polls show him tied or slightly behind.
In this, as in all things, Netanyahu has the fawning support of President Trump, who has abandoned four decades of bipartisan American policy by siding wholly with Israel, demolishing any chance that the United States can play a role as mediator. Without seeking a single concession in return, Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and cut off humanitarian aid to Palestinians, while his ambassador said in June that annexation of parts of the West Bank would be justifiable.
The problem, of course, is that giving Israel everything it wants before talks take place removes any incentive for Israel to make concessions. That’s why previous American presidents in both parties have insisted that major changes like this await negotiations.
Picture Jimmy Carter clasping hands at the White House in 1979 with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as they signed the Camp David accords. Now try to imagine Trump playing that role.
Netanyahu explicitly cited Trump’s unqualified support, saying it presented a “unique” chance to seize the disputed land now.
“We haven’t had such an opportunity since the Six Day War, and I doubt we’ll have another opportunity in the next 50 years,” he said.
The plan is to annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the territory that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. Roughly 400,000 settlers live in more than 100 fortified settlements spread through the region, so annexing them would essentially rule out forming a Palestinian state. Netanyahu promised to annex land in the Jordan Valley as well, the strip of land along the Jordan border.
Meanwhile, the world awaits the long-promised peace plan from Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, which is due to be released after the Israeli election. This is where embarrassment turns to farce. Kushner is a real estate developer with no experience in diplomacy or the region, and Trump has handed him a diplomatic task that eluded Henry Kissinger and George Mitchell.
Last week, a special assistant to Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, announced that he will quit his job, no doubt to avoid being associated with this mess. Kushner replaced him with a 30-year-old aide, Avi Berkowitz, who graduated from law school three years ago and also has no experience in the Middle East.
This is head-spinning stuff. If there’s any consolation, it is that Trump on Tuesday fired John Bolton, his unhinged national security advisor, who seemed eager to provoke a war with Iran. In the Trump era, we need to count our blessings where we find them.
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