I sometimes say, usually after being asked a ridiculous price for avocados in the shuk, that Israelis think all Americans are stupid and rich. I am beginning to think they are right about the stupid part, at least if they are talking about progressive Democratic members of the US Congress.
In response to the decision by Secretary of State Pompeo to finally officially reverse the US position that “Israeli settlements in the West Bank” – that is, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – are inconsistent with international law, 100 Democratic members of Congress sent him a letter urging him to take back his decision.
I use the word “stupid” because despite their obvious ignorance about the history of the US position, about international law, and about the significance and likely consequences of the change – they went ahead and sent the letter anyway. Sheer stupidity is the most generous explanation, because other explanations – like a desire to aid the enemies of the state of Israel who want to end it and re-disperse or murder its Jewish residents – are much uglier.
So what is wrong with the letter? Everything.
They say that “settlement expansion into the occupied West Bank makes a contiguous Palestinian state inviable, jeopardizing Israel’s future as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people.” But a contiguous Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would make what was left of Israel indefensible. So what they are saying is the opposite of the truth.
They say that the reversal “has offered a tacit endorsement of settlements, their expansion, and associated demolitions of Palestinian homes.” But read Pompeo’s statement: it implied nothing of the kind. It simply said that the US would no longer consider a Jewish community illegitimate simply because it was located in Judea or Samaria – or as I put it last week, a community in Judea or Samaria would not be considered illegitimate simply because it was populated by Jews. This sentence also implies that Israel is demolishing “Palestinian homes” in order to make way for settlement expansion. That is simply a vicious lie.
They say “[a]s annexation [of the Jordan Valley] and the United States’ approval thereof would destroy prospects for a two-state solution and lead to a more entrenched and possibly deadlier conflict, this decision erodes the security of both Israel and the United States.” But as every Israeli Prime Minister since 1967, including alleged “peacenik” Yitzhak Rabin, has said, control of the Jordan Valley is absolutely essential to Israel’s security. I would also remind them that UN Security Council resolutions 242/338 upon which the “two-state solution” with which they are enamored is based, refers to “secure and recognized boundaries,” which demand that the Jordan Valley become part of Israel. Annexation of the Jordan Valley, as proposed by PM Netanyahu, would enhance, not erode, the security of Israel and the US.
They say the decision “blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which affirms that any occupying power shall not ‘deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’” This is the most egregious falsehood of all. This clause was adopted as a response to the Nazi deportation of Jews and others to the German-occupied part of Poland, for purposes of slave labor and murder. The application of this to the voluntary movement of Jews to an area that, while disputed, is part of the area set aside by the Mandate for Palestine for “close settlement” by Jews, is both ironic and offensive.
The letter also objects to several other pro-Israel actions of the Trump Administration, such as the “administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem outside of a negotiated agreement.” I should like to remind the honorable signatories that the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed by the US Congress during the Clinton Administration, called for the embassy to be moved by 1999 absent a presidential waiver. The Act does not require a “negotiated agreement” (presumably between Israel and the Palestinian Authority) before implementation; indeed, it prescribes penalties for failure to do so in a timely manner. Rather than complain, they should be grateful to the administration for finally carrying out the will of Congress.
They also criticize the administration’s “halting of aid Congress appropriated to the West Bank and Gaza.” This refers to the reduction of aid to the PA called for by the Taylor Force Act, also passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump, which cuts aid until the PA agrees to stop paying terrorists and their families for murdering Jews. Do they think American taxpayers should subsidize terrorism? There is also a reduction in contributions to the Palestinian refugee support agency, UNRWA, which is a scam to funnel money to corrupt and terror-supporting officials, while working to increase the number of people with artificial refugee status, and prevent a solution to the problem of stateless Palestinian Arabs.
The letter is signed prominently – some are at the top of the list – by several Jewish congresspersons. While one might not necessarily expect Americans from all walks of life, even members of Congress, to be well-informed about issues in a tiny country at the far end of the Mediterranean, considering that this country is the world’s only Jewish state, I do expect this from Jewish members of Congress.
And although I recognize their political need to bash the administration at every possible opportunity, it is disgraceful that they are lending themselves to this dishonest, slanderous, and dangerous campaign to chip away at the legitimacy of the Jewish state and its ability to survive in a very hostile world.
As far as the others are concerned, if you don’t understand an issue, maybe just keep quiet about it.