Trump and Netanyahu. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Trump and Netanyahu. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sybil Cock looks at the US’s recognition of Israeli settlements, what this change represents and why it’s another reason to protest Trump’s visit

The Trump administration has announced that it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal.  Pompeo stated that the Israeli courts should be deciding the legality or otherwise of the settlements. This attempts to reverse a UN Security Council resolution of 2016 which declared settlements a ‘flagrant violation of International Law’, and the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 which states that an occupying power shall not transfer its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.  

This announcement, the latest in a long string of pro-Israel decisions by Trump’s administration, seems to have been provoked by a recent European Court of Justice decision that EU states are obliged to label settlement goods clearly as such, and not as products of Israel. 

Netanyahu, in deep trouble for corruption, and the rest of the Israeli political parties, in their post-electoral chaos, were overjoyed.  

Does this change anything? The Law of the Jungle. 

It does mark another nail in the coffin of the so-called ‘two-state solution’, which for decades has been the international response to the Occupation.  Nearly all commentators, including the Labour Party, and the Palestinian Authority itself, have this as their core policy. The PA greeted the announcement by saying that the Americans threaten to replace International Law with ‘the law of the Jungle’. 

On the ground in Palestine, there is little support for the idea. The Israeli settlements are the sharp end of the Occupation. The Apartheid nature of the Israeli state is clear when you see leafy towns dotted all over the West Bank, using stolen land and stolen water, guarded by the Army.  There have been numerous incidents of settler attacks on Palestinian olive harvesters this autumn. Readers will not need reminding of Israel’s continuous Human Rights violations in the West Bank, Gaza, and indeed against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

One State Solution?

Let’s unpick that idea. In a single state, all citizens would share equal rights; voting, access to services, freedom of expression.  In that sense, a one-state solution is far away. But in another sense – state power, there IS a single state, just a very, very undemocratic one. International law has done very little since 1948 to restore the rights of the Palestinians. The obsessive adherence to the chimaera of two side by side states, Israel and Palestine, has been a major hindrance to the struggle. 


The shift from the Clinton-Obama negotiating position could not be clearer. Trump’s rabid support for Israel (his ambassador there is a fundraiser for settlements and lives in one) is of a piece with the rest of his foreign policy. He is trying to reposition Israel in its historic role as the west’s policeman in the Middle East – but at arm’s length. 

Israel is the last major settler-colonial state in the world, and the struggle of Palestinians should be at the centre of our fight.  

Next week’s demonstration against Trump will have a large Palestine bloc. We should see a large sea of Palestinian flags there. 

Socialists need to keep themselves informed about Palestine. Visiting is an unforgettable experience. And join your local branch of PSC.