Reversing decades of established policy, the United States has softened its stance on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying such occupation is not inconsistent with international law. This turns on its head not only America’s stance but that of the West on these settlements that have not only changed the land’s demographics but also its topography. The US move won’t change the fundamentals of the ground situation, where great insecurities prevailed for years among Israelis and Palestinians since 1967.
What the Donald Trump-inspired move does is to license Israel’s occupation and emboldens it, further deepening the depression of the Palestinians. Mr Trump may have acted not only to lift Israeli morale but also to give the tottering Benjamin Netanhayu a chance to remain in power. It’s also a deeper message to American Jews, whose votes Mr Trump needs as he seeks re-election next year.
In the world’s eyes, the Jewish settlers on the West Bank have been outlaws for over half a century, their presence a cruel infliction on Arabs. The US action doesn’t alter international law, which rightly forbids states from moving their civilians on to occupied land at the expense of local populations. Israel has held the West Bank territory, once part of the Ottoman Empire, after seizing it from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.
There is nothing new in the US bias towards Israel, except that Mr Trump is going way beyond the norm in not only shifting the US embassy in Jerusalem but also recognising Israel’s absolute right to the occupied territory. What signal this gives to countries that eye territories of others and are willing to breach the sovereignty of nations is anybody’s guess....