[Note: What follows is part of a comprehensive overview by the Israeli-American journalist of what the Trump Administration has done in league with the right-wing government of the State of Israel vis a vis the occupied territories and its negative impact on a potential two states for two peoples peaceful and negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and what President-Elect Joe Biden’s options are to reverse these policies and thereby restore traditional American policy in the Middle East that supports a two-state solution. I recommend reading the entire piece – the link to the full piece is at the end.]
“IN ITS FINAL WEEKS, the Trump administration appears to be shoring up its legacy of support for Israeli territorial-maximalist ambitions. Last Thursday, Mike Pompeo visited Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank—a first for a US secretary of state. Just one year ago, Pompeo reversed decades of US policy by announcing that the Trump administration would no longer consider Israeli settlements to be in violation of international law. During last week’s visit, he made two new declarations further entrenching Israel’s occupation and shielding it from criticism. First, he outlined a new customs guideline that designates goods manufactured in Area C of the West Bank—the portion of the territory under full Israeli control—as Israeli products, regardless of whether they were made by Israelis or Palestinians, effectively recognizing Israeli sovereignty there and further blurring the line between Israel and the territories it occupied in the 1967 War. Second, he announced that he had directed the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to “identify oranizations that engage in, or otherwise support” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,which he called a “cancer” and labeled “a manifestation of anti-Semitism.” “[A]nti-Zionism is anti-Semitism,” Pompeo declared.
These are only the latest items on a long list of policies implemented by the Trump administration to bolster Israel’s perpetual control of the occupied territories while stifling criticism of Israel and delegitimizing Palestine solidarity activism. That list includes: moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem; recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; shuttering the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington, DC; ending US support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and all assistance from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to the West Bank and Gaza; greenlighting Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank; extending US–Israel scientific cooperation to include Israeli institutions in the West Bank; signing an executive order on antisemitism that conflates it with anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel; brokering normalization deals between Israel and several Gulf states; and shredding the Iran nuclear deal.
President-elect Joe Biden will inherit a Middle East policy that upended international norms and all but buried the two-state solution model. The question now is: What will Biden—whose record on the issue has been guided by the imperative that there be “no daylight” between the US and Israel—do to undo the damage wrought by Donald Trump?
“Almost all of this can be easily undone early on in a Biden administration by executive action,” said Dylan Williams, head of policy at J Street. Williams said a Biden administration could immediately repudiate Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan and reiterate its opposition to unilateral annexation of territory. “It could and should revoke the ‘Pompeo Doctrine’”—open US support for Israeli annexation of the West Bank—“and reinstate the longstanding State Department legal opinion that settlements are illegal under international law.”
Williams added that Biden’s State Department could also reinstate the previous US customs guidelines on labeling of products from the West Bank, refuse to fund joint scientific research projects in settlements, and once again refer to Israel’s “occupation” in their reports. (The 2020 Democratic National Convention’s platform does not mention the word “occupation,” though it states a commitment to stopping settlement expansion.)
Mairav Zonszein is an Israeli-American journalist who covers politics in Israel, Palestine and the US, civil rights, antisemitism, and the media. She has written for The Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, and The Intercept, among others, and is a longtime contributor to +972 Magazine.