Donald Trump’s US administration moved a step nearer pushing a “one-state” solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict on Monday 18 November. Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the USA no longer considers the Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.
Partly under US pressure, Israel dismantled its settlements in Gaza in 2005, and in Sinai in 1982.
Pompeo’s announcement green-lights the next Israeli government — when it’s formed — formally to annex to Israel all or most of “Area C”, the over-60% of the West Bank including the settlements and the Israeli road system connecting them.
“Area C” is already under direct Israeli control, and completely surrounds the 165 distinct patches of “Area A” and “Area B”, comprising almost all the cities and villages where the West Bank’s overwhelming Palestinian majority lives. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in caretaker mode now pending long wrangles about forming a new government coalition, has promised to annex Area C.
Day-to-day, annexation of Area C will change nothing on the ground. The same is true of Pompeo’s announcement about the settlements, and the Trump regime’s earlier declaration that it recognises Israel as sovereign over the Golan Heights and its move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
The USA’s vote in the UN on 15 November against renewing the mandate for UNRWA (the UN agency which provides health care, schools, and housing for Palestinian refugees and descendants) was symbolic (no other state voted against renewal, other than Israel). Its cutting of funds to UNRWA in 2018 has been partly (only partly) offset by increased funding from the Gulf states and the EU.
But in impact on potential for a democratic settlement, these moves add up. They accumulate obstacles to Palestinian self-determination in a real independent state alongside Israel (a “two states” settlement), and push towards Israel gradually taking over the whole territory west of the Jordan and marginalising the Palestinians into a scattering of minorities with few rights.
Some on the left talk about “one state” as a better outcome than “two states”. In reality the only “one state” variant now in play is the noxious Trump-Netanyahu one. The reverse “one-state” variant, Arab conquest of Israel and suppression and marginalisation of the Jewish population, is unrealistic in anything like the current balance of forces, as well as also being noxious.
The deadline for Netanyahu’s “centre-right” rival Benny Gantz to form a government coalition expires 20 November, and Israel may well face a third general election.
That gives us more time to build international agitation against annexation and for Palestinian rights.