Official U.S. policy opposes Israel’s recently announced plan to construct 10,000 housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank Palestinian territory. But even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sen. Chris Murphy express “deep concern,” the Biden administration opposes a UN bid to denounce Israel’s unlawful West Bank settlement expansion.
Washington’s expressions of “deep concern” followed by reassurances of no meaningful consequences have contributed to, rather than curbed, Israel’s colonization of the West Bank Palestinian territory militarily occupied by Israel since 1967. Over and over again, Israel has expanded its unlawful settlement enterprise in the occupied territories without any meaningful consequences. Nonetheless, Democrat and Republican administrations continue to reward Israel, the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since WWII.
One is left to wonder why our elected officials fail to conform policy to the unfolding “facts on the ground.” Ever since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (following the UN Resolution 181 partitioning of Palestine in 1947), under every Israeli government, whether Labor or Likud, the State of Israel continues its colonization of Palestinian land in part, via the expansion of Jewish settlements throughout the occupied territories. The present Israeli government is no different.
In 1982, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin aimed “to have 100,000 settlers in the West Bank as soon as possible,” a “critical mass” so large “that no Israeli government thereafter could agree to withdraw from the territory.” In response, Meron Benvenisti, the former mayor of Jerusalem, issued his “five minutes to midnight” stark warning that the Israeli government had “proceeded methodically and effectively toward de facto annexation of the West Bank.” Since then, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan have grown to more than 140, not including the 100 Israeli illegal outposts. These settlements, throughout the area once intended for a Palestinian State, house nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers.
By failing to take meaningful action to hold Israel accountable for expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan, Washington undercut a cornerstone of its professed Middle East peace policy, the so-called two-state solution.
Likewise, the Carnegie Endowment report released in 2021 characterized the current two-state peace process as “scaffolding [that] sustains occupation and is structurally incapable of delivering peace and human security.” Instead, the report argues, “the U.S. Government should “support an alternative solution that guarantees full equality and enfranchisement for those residing in the territory under Israeli control.”
Students of history can easily make the case based on statements of many Israeli leaders that Israel has never intended to forgo claim to captured Palestinian territories. Such history compels a reasonable conclusion that implementing a negotiated “two-state solution” was never a real possibility. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that there will not be a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the previous so-called more moderate Israel government, likewise foreclosed consideration of a Palestinian state. At this point, the two-state solution myth serves as a placeholder for a failed Middle East policy that seems more concerned with autocratic alliances than securing freedom, justice, and equality for all the people between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea.
Many observers recognize that the window for the “negotiated two-state future,” if ever open, closed with the failure of the Oslo Accords, the building of the illegal “Separation Wall,” and the ongoing expansion of Settlements and Outposts throughout Palestinian territory. Present-day pronouncements of concern for a “negotiated two-state future” may play well in Washington, but frankly, such statements sound out of touch with reality.
If it were “5 minutes to midnight” in 1982, it is now the twilight zone. The Washington policy of handwringing and expressions of “deep concern” while unconditionally supporting the State of Israel as it pursues apartheid policies will not preserve Israel’s security or bring justice to the Palestinians.
John Fussell of West Hartford is the Connecticut Organizer for Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP-Action).