On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will no longer consider Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria occupied according to international law.
The Democrats, who desperately need Jewish and pro-Israel money to fuel their 2020 efforts to unseat Mr. Trump, probably do not want to run the risk of engaging with the administration on Israel policy at this point. There isn’t anything that Democratic leaders on Israel can do or say that will place them in a position to be considered more of an advocate for Israel than the president.
This idea that the presence of more than half a million Jewish residents living in those areas is one of the major obstacles to Israel–Palestinian peace has been nothing more than a bogus Arab excuse from the get-go. Even to this day, Arab leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas continue to demand the uprooting of settlements, the extrication of Jews, Gush Katif-style, and all that would only be a prelude to possible future peace.
The State Department announcement says it directly: Enough of this nonsense. Settlement communities will never again be uprooted in any way or for any reason. More than a half-century after the Six Day War, we have a recognition of the rights of Jews in Israel. The Trump administration’s move is an about face to the negligence displayed by President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, when in the waning days of the Obama administration — December 23, 2016 — they allowed a resolution to pass the UN Security Council that refers to the “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
The resolution, which passed the Security Council 14–0, was adapted only because Mr. Obama directed his UN ambassador to abstain on a vote that the U.S. traditionally had vetoed at the UN. This was Obama’s parting shot at Israel, and this is precisely what was undone by President Trump and Secretary Pompeo this week.
But this is hardly where this is going to end. While Prime Minister Netanyahu and his current coalition are pleased with the U.S. decision, you can rest assured that at least half of the state of Israel is unsure about how to feel about this, and here in the U.S. probably a great deal more than half of the American Jewish population either does not know what to think about the new policy or is completely opposed to the new policy for whatever reason.
Our editorial position is that the new policy is long overdue and, in fact, is a righting of a longstanding wrong. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, of course they are dead set against it. But as Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said the other day, the PA and their leadership — just like the Democrats in Washington — have been opposed to anything emanating from the Trump administration for the last three years. To that end, this change in U.S. approach toward settlements means between very little and nothing at all.
The overriding question is how this policy will play out in the United States among supporters of Israel. Some supporters of Israel, including many members of AIPAC, might have some difficulty with the U.S. policy on settlements — not because they are necessarily opposed to Jews having the right to live anywhere they choose as a human right, but rather because of the potential political complications involved.
After all these years, it is not difficult to conclude that the objective of U.S. policy on Israel is not to reach any ends or draw any conclusions. It is almost as if leaving things up in the air and inconclusive on Israel policy is the best we can ever expect. And can we really fault anyone for feeling that way after half a century of off-and-on negotiations, an assortment of agreements (always violated by the Palestinians), skirmishes, terrorist attacks, missiles killing Israeli civilians, ceasefires, and then more battles and attacks, as well as even a war here and there?
How is recognizing the legitimacy of settlements in Judea and Samaria is going to work with the organized Jewish community’s desire for bipartisan pro-Israel policy? How will Senator Chuck Schumer support this policy when it defies what so many leading Democrats subscribe to today on these matters? Some Democrats, like Mr. Schumer and others, supported the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But settlements, to many, are a completely different matter.
Even some of those who supported the embassy move to Jerusalem will tell you that the status of the city still needs to be determined as a result of negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. This longstanding idea — along with the notion that settlements have to be ultimately emptied of Jews — is, aside from being intellectually dishonest, a demonstration of pure racism.
So what we have here this week is a clearer and more sensible policy that seems reflective of a real, present, and existing reality. It may have taken half of a century for someone to come to their senses about the fact that there is something fundamentally imbalanced and wrong about having a different set of rules for Jews and Israel than those applied to the rest of the world.
All this comes at the same time that the European Union has chosen to accelerate their own racist approach to Israel by ruling that products produced in Judea and Samaria be labeled as such for the convenience of the Boycott Israel movement; that cannot be considered coincidental.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer championed this new policy after an extensive State Department review. It is a giant step for Israel, though many may not be certain how to relate to it. That will take a little more time.