In the midst of a political stalemate in Israel, the government is continuing with its annexation of the West Bank, a move recently endorsed by the U.S. Israel also continues its murderous campaign against Gaza and air strikes against Syria.
After two elections, in April and September, Israeli politicians are still deadlocked. Likud, the party of right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister for the last 10 years, has basically tied twice with the Blue and White party of Benny Gantz, a more centrist alliance put together to try to defeat Netanyahu. As a result, neither has been able to form a government.
The Joint List, a political coalition uniting a number of Palestinian parties, is the third largest block in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Netanyahu’s campaign terrorist-baited the Joint List and tried to link it to the Blue and White.
U.S. support for Israel’s colonization
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Nov. 18 that the United States does not consider Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal.
This statement reverses 40 years of U.S. policy, but didn’t come out of the blue. David M. Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, made it clear that he supported Israel’s so-called right to annex the occupied West Bank at his nomination hearing in 2016. (New York Times, Dec. 15, 2016)
The latest gift by U.S. President Donald Trump to his ally Netanyahu has no obvious rationale, but certainly bolstered Netanyahu’s political position within Israel.
In response, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said: “Pompeo’s reckless announcement threatens to normalize and encourage Israeli war crimes and expansionism.” (Washington Post, Nov. 20)
She went on to say: “The issue of settlements is not some abstract or theoretical legal argument. Israel’s illegal settlement regime has had dire consequences on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians.”
She added: “Today, roughly 700,000 Israeli settlers live illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in more than 200 settlements. [Israeli] settlements are strategically located to isolate Palestinian cities, towns and villages, sever East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and take control of vital natural resources, including water.”
Israel’s campaign against Gaza
Israel claimed Nov. 12 that it had assassinated Bahaa Abu Al-Ata, the top commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and his spouse Asma Abu Al-Ata, at their home in Gaza. Israel boasted that this assassination was “surgical,” but one of its final strikes also destroyed the home of another family, killing eight, including five children. Palestinian medical officials reported 34 casualties. (Washington Post, Nov. 16)
In response, beginning Nov. 13, Islamic Jihad sent a barrage of hundreds of rockets into southern Israel. After a couple of days, Israel attacked some Hamas facilities, claiming rockets were coming from there.
Israel has imposed a state of siege on Gaza for the past 12 years. Israel has limited or completely cut off food, water, electricity and medical supplies, leaving the Palestinian people there in hunger, thirst and danger.
On Nov. 21, Avichaï Mandelblit, Israel’s attorney general, released a 63-page indictment of Netanyahu, who had appointed him 4 years earlier. Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. These charges are similar to charges now being developed in the impeachment investigation against his ally Trump.
Netanyahu’s response to the indictment was aggressive. He charged it was a “witch hunt,” “an attempted coup,” and is refusing to step down. He is not legally obliged to do so, but significantly he had called for a previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to step down after a similar indictment.
It is not clear how this latest development will affect the situation in Israel and Palestine. The Blue and White head, Benny Ganz, implied he could no longer negotiate with Likud while it was headed by Netanyahu. Political splits in the Israeli public are growing sharper. European media called for Netanyahu to step down.
The head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, said the developments were a sign “of more steadfastness” for the Palestinians and that this meant more “resistance, both popular and armed.” (AP, Nov. 23)