President Donald Trump and his administration have long been on a path to diminish Palestinian declarations of statehood. The Trump administration recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, and in a historic move relocated the American embassy to Yerushalayim. David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, is recognized for engaging the White House on such a transference, and must be commended for his painstaking efforts since assuming his position.
On Monday, the United States, under the direction of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, assuaged its contested position on Israel’s presence in the regions of Yehudah and Shomron. This move backtracks a 1978 State Department opinion, under President Jimmy Carter, stating that the “establishment of civilian communities” in those regions is “inconsistent with international law.” This legal discourse has been the absolute basis for the US policy to not allow an expansion of the settlements and is now viewed as a diversion that “has not advanced the cause for peace.” At a press conference, Pompeo stressed the need to refer to the Israeli justice system to handle this matter further. This move is in line with the Reagan administration, but in strong contrast to the sentiments of former recent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was relieved of his duties on March 21, 2018.
Hours following the decision, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the West Bank settlements and acknowledged the new view of the American superpower as “an achievement that will ultimately stand for generations,” confessing at the Kfar Etzion settlement, “I am very moved.” During this turbulent time of political uncertainty, the Likud leader remains resilient in backing a measure to swiftly occupy what is known as the Jordan Valley.
Knesset Member Sharren Haskel added, “There is no reason that this important decision should not pass in the Knesset.” In a tweet, New Right MK Ayelet Shaked called for Israel to apply its dominance in these areas: “The Jewish [people] have the legal and moral right to live in their ancient homeland.” In a video statement ahead of a meeting later in the week, the Prime Minister urged his political rivals Benny Gantz of Blue and White and Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu to join him in a broad unity government with the underlying goal of annexing the Jordan Valley and “keeping Israel safe.” A late-night meeting was set less than 26 hours ahead of an expiring month-long mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to Benny Gantz urging the formation of a government and avoiding a third round of elections.
Former 48th District NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind calls the progress “courageous,” saying, “It’s another bold move by the president that goes a long way towards correcting historic wrongs perpetuated by anti-Semites about the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.” OU President Moishe Bane took it further, expressing appreciation “for righting this wrong impression left by some prior administrations.” Farley Weiss, the president of the National Council of Young Israel, released a statement welcoming the announcement and “undertaking the comprehensive legal analysis” by the Trump administration. Weiss continued, it is a “validation of our enduring belief that Israeli citizens have an absolute right to make their homes there.”
Winemaker Yaakov Berg of the Psagot Winery, based in the West Bank, noted that a recent European Union court decision is a probable root for the altered US position and pledged to “continue fighting around the world against boycott attempts.” Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi requested of the Israeli government to cease the chance to annex the entire territory: “Settlement is not a crime nor and obstacle to peace.”
US Ambassador Friedman took time to work with the Trump administration and the Israeli government and choose the most opportune time to make this announcement in a manner deemed safest to the region. Friedman went as far as alerting Blue and White leader Benny Gantz ahead of the public broadcast.
Israeli sovereignty beyond the Green Line is nothing new. Families living in these areas will not notice anything different if the legislation would pass tomorrow, but they would have an inner sense of victory and confirmation on the belief of a one-state reality.
Netanyahu stressed, “We are not in a foreign country. This has been our homeland for over 3,000 years. We are called Jews because we come from Yehudah.”
By Shabsie Saphirstein