On reading the recent statement issued by the US State Department on Israeli settlements, an average reader, having landed from space, could only conclude that Israel’s settlement activity is the source of all evil in the world, and the US is waging a massive war of “Gog and Magog” against this evil. No international terrorism, no Islamic State, no Iranian nuclear threat, no Syria, no Hezbollah, no Hamas, no hunger, no global warming. Only Israeli settlements.
Even without coming from space, the average reader could only conclude that the State Department has really nothing much to do, and that someone there – whether the secretary himself, or his senior staffers, or the US embassy in Tel Aviv – appears to be utterly and disproportionately fixated on Israel’s settlements, to the exclusion of any other issue that could be bothering the world’s largest (and only) super-power.
One might anticipate such an outpouring of hostility from the Iranian Foreign Ministry or even from the EU Foreign Affairs Department, which has no love for Israel, but coming from the State Department of Israel’s staunchest ally, one can only ask: what has been going on at the State Department? Whether the instruction to issue such a willful, slanted and malicious statement indeed emanated from the secretary of state himself, or from some over-enthused middle-ranking official, or whether it came from the US embassy staff in Tel Aviv, one may only ponder.
But the terminology used and the biting and incisive verve of the statement raise some serious questions as to the basic knowledge, seriousness, professionalism and responsibility of the writer and of whoever approved the issuance of the statement.
The State Department’s position regarding settlements has evolved over the years. While previous administrations described them as an “obstacle to peace,” the Obama and Kerry administration have degraded them to being “illegitimate.” The recent inclusion by the State Department of areas within Israel’s capital city Jerusalem as illegal settlements is a novel addition.
But to describe settlements – both in the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, as “corrosive to the cause of peace,” as “systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution,” as “entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict” and as “provocative and counterproductive” – is nothing more than a sad, political exaggeration, out of all proportion to the issue’s actual size or significance.
This is not to mention, of course, that this fixation seems to be way outside the nature of the relationship between the US and Israel.
This massive frontal attack, as if nothing but settlements were preventing peace in the Middle East, belies reality, misrepresents the situation and misleads whoever is intended to be the target of this curious statement.
One might have imagined that the US administration is, or should be, fully aware of the fact that issues of settlements and Jerusalem are central, agreed-upon issues on the permanent- status negotiating table, pursuant to the Oslo Accords. These accords were even witnessed, counter-signed and guaranteed by US president Bill Clinton, together with the leaders of Russia, the EU, Jordan, Egypt and Norway, and were endorsed by the UN.
As such Israel is fully committed to negotiating them with the Palestinian leadership, if and when that leadership manages to put its act together and turn up to negotiate.
The State Department should also be aware of the fact that nothing in the Oslo Accords prevents planning, zoning and construction activity by either side in the West Bank areas under their respective control.
Furthermore, in voicing its one-sided allegations, the State Department seems to be willfully and systematically ignoring the well-established and documented legal, historic and political rights of the Jewish people regarding the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria, as stressed consistently over many years by Israel.
The State Department should be aware of the fact that its repeated questioning of the legality of Israel’s settlement activity and Israel’s claims regarding Jerusalem in fact prejudge these central negotiating issues and play into the Palestinian and European denials of Israel’s rights. As such, the State Department statements are the very antithesis of any peace negotiation process, and run counter to the professed support by the US of a negotiated, peaceful solution.
In repeatedly and obstinately threatening Israel with a “one-state reality” the State Department is itself giving credence to a concept that has no basis whatsoever, is totally unrealistic and runs counter to all the valid negotiated agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians.
But above all, in fixating on settlements, the State Department is deliberately turning a blind eye to the mortal danger of Islamic terrorism and the hatred of Jews that permeates Palestinian society. In so doing, the department is in fact giving a green light to the Palestinian leadership, media and administrative bodies that openly incite, encourage and support terrorism, violence and boycotts against Israel.
By the same token, the State Department is giving sanction to the EU and its constituent member states, as well as to the UN and its specialized agencies to exacerbate their hostile policies against Israel. By their logic, if the US State Department takes such a slanted and hostile position, they can now exacerbate their own hostility toward Israel.
Something appears to be very, very wrong within the State Department.