U.S. no longer honest broker in Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this past weekend dredged up an old playbook just prior to the Israeli elections: expansion of his country’s borders and claims of his country’s sovereignty over adjacent disputed territory.

​Netanyahu said on “Meet the Press” that if elected, he would annex the West Bank and make it officially part of Israel.

​Netanyahu’s hold on the leadership position was tenuous at best prior to the elections. Israel’s attorney general accuses him of corruption and is prepared to haul him into court.

​The United Nations and the international community have held ever since the creation of Israel in 1948 that the West Bank (the 2,500-square-mile area between modern-day Israel and the nation of Jordan) belongs to the Palestinians. 

Israel, however, has continued to build Jewish settlements in the disputed territory, a source of bitter conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs for decades.

​It’s not clear how much of the West Bank Netanyahu wants Israel to annex — all of it, or just some.

Israel has maintained military control over the territory since the Six-Day War of 1967, enabling the construction of the Jewish settlements there that nearly all the world declares to be illegal.

​Right-wing Jews, in Israel and around the world, claim a Jewish right to the territory as part of the original land that, according to the Old Testament, God gave to the Jewish people forever.

​Palestinians, of course, don’t recognize that doctrine. They claim they were illegally pushed out of the area by the creation of Israel in 1948 and that Israel has continued to violate the United Nations declaration of that year that carved Israel out of Palestine but left the West Bank for the Palestinians.

​The United States has always recognized the 1948 U.N. declaration as part of international law. At least up until now.

​President Trump since taking office in 2016 has upset the unsteady balance in several ways. He declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, a position taken by almost no other nation except Israel. He then moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

​The Palestinians have always declared East Jerusalem to be their future capital.

​Then Trump recently acquiesced in Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, the rocky plateau that lies between Syria and Israel. International law recognizes the Golan Heights as part of Syria.

​In my opinion, it’s not likely that Trump will object to Israel’s annexation of the West Bank either.

​There’s a Neverland quality about America’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Trump some time back designated his son-in-law Jared Kushner to spearhead a solution to bring peace to the conflict, and just a couple weeks ago American Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the plan has been finalized. It supposedly is to be rolled out after this week’s Israeli elections.

​The United States for decades has sought a two-state solution as the only viable way to bring lasting peace to the region. Under that process, both Israel and the Palestinians would control their own nations with defined borders and sovereignty for both peoples.

​The recent moves by Trump favoring the expansion of Israeli power and sovereignty have brought the expected result of condemnation from the Palestinians. Without the West Bank the Palestinians have no basis for their own nation. 

It’s evident that the United States can no longer serve as an “honest broker” between the two sides.

​Given America’s recent actions, the only “peace plan” Kushner is likely to come up with is to let Israel dictate terms as a conqueror, as it apparently is doing. 

That’s not a formula for a real or a lasting peace.

​If we believe that all humans are endowed by their creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we have a problem with how that works for the Palestinians.

And we’re making it worse.

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