The settlements, which are swallowing more and more land and resources, remain the biggest obstacle to a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Benjamin Netanyahu was out and about on Tuesday milking for all it was worth the Trump administration’s “historic” decision that it no longer sees Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal. In the heart of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc he lost no time in claiming much of the credit for secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s announcement “which we have greatly worked for”.
He can say that again. For this indefensible decision, overturning the administration of Barack Obama’s clear alignment with a half century-old western consensus that the settlements are illegal in international law, is as much about the political welfare of two men, as about Donald Trump’s unswerving determination to recast US policy in favour of the Israeli right. One is the beleaguered Netanyahu, whose main purpose in life now is staying out of jail. His desperate, but possibly vain, hope, after an inconclusive second election in September, is that it will help him to cling on to the premiership long enough to fend off a trial on the three corruption indictments he faces (he denies all the allegations).
The other is Trump himself, facing impeachment-related troubles of his own, and anxious to please the most fanatically pro-Israel elements in his base, especially the Christian evangelical element of it, ahead of an election year. The administration has in the process recklessly sacrificed, at least as long as Trump remains president, the last shreds of the US’s claim to be a broker of a peace which it has instead made an even more distant prospect than it was already
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