By Ramzy Baroud
15 February 2017
Empirical historical evidence and a little common sense are enough to tell us the type of future options Israel has in store for the Palestinians: Perpetual apartheid, ethnic cleansing or a mix of both. The passing of the Regularization Bill on Feb. 6 is all we need to imagine the Israeli-envisaged future. The new law allows the government to retroactively recognize Jewish outposts built without official permission on privately owned Palestinian land.
All settlements — officially recognized ones and unauthorized outposts — are illegal under international law. The verdict has been passed numerous times by the UN and, more recently, pronounced with unmistakable clarity in Security Council Resolution 2334.
Israel’s response was the announcement of the construction of over 6,000 new housing units throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, the construction of a new settlement (the first in 20 years), and the new law that paves the way for annexing large swathes of the occupied West Bank.
Undoubtedly, the law is the last nail in the coffin for the two-state solution, but that is not important. It never mattered to Israel anyway. Talk of a solution was mere smoke and mirrors as far as it was concerned. All the “peace talks” and the entire “peace process,” even when it was at its zenith, rarely slowed down Israeli bulldozers, construction of settler homes or the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
Writing in Newsweek, Diana Buttu described how the process of building settlements is always accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian homes. So far this year, 140 Palestinian structures have been demolished, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territories.
Since US President Donald Trump was sworn in, Israel has felt liberated from its obligation to doublespeak. For decades, Israeli officials spoke passionately about peace, but did everything in their power to hinder its attainment. Now they simply do not care. They perfected their balancing act simply because they had to, because Washington expected it, demanded it.
But Trump has given them carte blanche: Do as you please; settlements are not obstacles to peace; Israel has been “treated very, very unfairly;” I will correct that historical injustice. Almost immediately after he was inaugurated on Jan. 20, all masks came off. On Jan. 25, the real Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resurfaced, dropping his act and declaring in enviable brazenness that “we are building, and we will continue to build” illegal settlements.
What more is there to talk about with Israel at this point? Nothing. The only solution that mattered to it is its own “solution,” always driven by blind US support and European uselessness, and always imposed on the Palestinians and Arab countries, by force if needed.
The guardians of the grand charade of the two-state solution, who shrewdly crafted the “peace process” and danced to every Israeli tune, is now bewildered. They have been outed by Israel’s dreadful plans that shot their “solution” right between the eyes, leaving Palestinians to choose between subjugation, humiliation or imprisonment.
Journalist Jonathan Cook is right. The new law is the first step toward annexing the West Bank, or at least most of it. Once small outposts are legalized, they would need to be fortified, (“naturally“) expanded and protected. The military occupation, in effect for 50 years, will no longer be temporary and reversible. Civil law will continue to apply to Jews in the occupied Palestinian territories, and military laws on occupied Palestinians.
It is the very definition of apartheid. To meet the “security needs” of the settlers, more Jewish-only bypass roads will be constructed, more walls erected, more gates to keep Palestinians away from their land, schools and livelihood will be put up, more checkpoints, suffering, pain, anger and violence. That is Israel’s vision.
Even Trump is growing frustrated by it shamelessness and audacity. In an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, he called on it to “be reasonable with respect to peace,” adding: “There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”
He is backtracking on promises he made regarding moving the US Embassy, unchecked settlement expansion and more, as he is realizing that Netanyahu and his US supporters have led him to a cliff and are now asking him to jump.
But it matters little. Whether Trump holds on to his extremely pro-Israel position or reverts to a wishy-washy stance similar to that of his predecessor Barack Obama, reality is unlikely to change, for only Israel is ultimately allowed to influence outcomes.
Israeli lawmakers’ approval of the bill is the end of an era. We have reached the point where we can openly declare that the “peace process” was an illusion from the start, for Israel had no intention of ever conceding the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
The Palestinian leadership is hardly blameless in all this. Its greatest mistake, besides its disgraceful disunity, was entrusting the US, Israel’s main enabler, with managing a “peace process” that has allowed Israel time and resources to finish its colonial project while devastating Palestinian rights and political aspirations.
Returning to the same old channels, using the same language and seeking salvation at the altar of the same old “two-state solution” will achieve nothing but waste further time and energy. But Israel’s humiliating options for the Palestinians can be read differently. Its obstinacy is leaving Palestinians and Israelis with only one choice: Equal citizenship in a single state, or horrific apartheid and more ethnic cleansing.
In the words of former US President Jimmy Carter, “Israel will never find peace until it permit(s) the Palestinians to exercise their basic human and political rights.” That Israeli “permission” is yet to arrive, leaving the international community with the moral responsibility to exact it.
Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books, and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com.