by Jeff Klein
The Israeli government is getting ready to formally annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank, apparently with the assent of the Trump administration. This action would culminate decades of settlement building, land seizures and dispossession of Palestinians in the territories where they had hoped to exercise self-determination.
Israeli settlements in militarily-occupied Palestinian land were already considered illegal by nearly all of the world community, including the US government – at least before President Trump. As reaffirmed by the International Court of Justice more than a decade ago, Israeli settlements already violate the Geneva Convention and numerous UN Security Council resolutions, with the US agreeing.
But the formal annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank would fly in the face of a fundamental principle of international law since the foundation of the UN – the prohibition of acquiring territory by war. This is also true of the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan, which was recently recognized by the Trump administration.
Whether or not previous Israeli settlement building has already put a two-state outcome beyond feasibility, a move to annex areas of the West Bank would officially entrench a permanent Apartheid system. “Legal” annexation by Israel would open the way to further expulsions, land seizures and exploitation of natural resources. Apartheid itself has been recognized as a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court.
The time is long overdue to re-examine the annual $3.8 billion in unconditional US military aid to Israel. In light of illegal Israeli settlement building and now impending formal West Bank annexation, Congress must do more than just wring its hands. As experience shows, condemnation without consequences is of no value in bringing about a change in Israeli policy.
A letter which is circulating in the Senate warning Israel against annexation is a perfect example of not good enough. Even the mild language originally threatening possible reduction in political support for Israel was stripped out of the letter under pressure from Israel supporters and lobbyists.
Mass. Peace Action has sent its own letter to all members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation demanding a more forceful response:
We ask that you act decisively in opposition to this annexation plan, which breaks with decades of US policy – at least until the Trump administration – as well as with the international consensus that Israeli settlements and land seizures are illegal and obstacles to peace. Israel should not be allowed to annex occupied land with impunity.
Democrats and others who have long professed support for a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict, have declined so far to support meaningful pressure on Israel, the stronger and occupying power, to bring this about. Whether or not previous Israeli settlement building has already put this two-state outcome beyond feasibility, a move to annex areas of the West Bank would officially entrench a permanent Apartheid system. “Legal” annexation by Israel would open the way to further expulsions, land seizures and exploitation of natural resources, and so effectively dispossess more tens of thousands of Palestinian inhabitants.
The time is long overdue to re-examine annual $3.8 billion in unconditional US military aid to Israel. Israeli settlements already defy international law and US interests for a just and peaceful outcome to the conflict. But if Israel proceeds with formal annexation Democrats, especially, should make clear what the consequences will be.
Reducing US military aid to Israel would not leave it defenseless. Like other countries, Israel could still purchase or produce weaponry it needs. But ending direct US military assistance would compel Israeli rather than US taxpayers to bear the burden for Israel’s policies which make peace more unattainable and help to inflame the Middle East.
Now, more than ever, with a coronavirus pandemic putting huge strains on our federal spending, we and the world cannot afford a blank check for Israel. Please use the form below to send a message to your members of Congress.
—Jeff Klein is a member of the Mass. Peace Action Board and of Dorchester People for Peace, and is a frequent traveler to Palestine/Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, participating in solidarity efforts and promoting freedom for the Palestinians.