President Trump left his mark on a little more of the world this week. The administration reversed decades of US policy, declaring that Israel has a right to build settlements in Palestinian West Bank.
The Administration noted it was just acknowledging “the reality on the ground”. And in a way it’s right. As much as the international community supported the idea of a Two State solution, Israel and a separate Palestine nation comprised of Gaza and the West Bank, it hasn’t happened. Over and over again the Palestinians have rejected Israeli offers of the Two State solution. And even while Israel officially pursued the Two State solution, it tolerated and even encouraged a Settler Movement that has been trying to force Israel to claim the West Bank as part of a greater Israel. In a way, the Trump Administration has ended the fraud, acknowledging the rejection by both sides of a Two State solution. I’m not a fan of the Administration, and arguably the situation could have handled much differently, but give the President credit – he is forcing a more honest conversation on the future of Israel and Palestine. He is forcing acknowledgement that Israel is laying claim to the West Bank and abandoning the idea of a separate Palestinian state.
I can’t help but think that eventually Israel will regret the change in US position. All along Israel has faced a choice. It could be a small Jewish nation with a Jewish majority or a much larger nation, but with an eventual Palestinian majority. With the US recognition of the settlements, Israel took a large step down the path to One State. At some point international pressure will shift from a focus on creating a Palestinian state to ensuring Palestinians have full rights as Israeli citizens. Israel will be faced with a much harder choice – either deny voting rights to Palestinians and become the new South Africa, or extend equal rights to Palestinians and wait for them to take over Israel from the inside.
As with much this President has upended, who knows how it will turn out. But what comes next will be different from what went before.