The US announced last week that it considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be legal.
The announcement comes at a time of crisis in Israeli politics. Last week prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was indicted for fraud and bribery after accepting gifts from bosses in exchange for publicity.
Netanyahu is refusing to resign, so another election is likely.
While the indictment is bad news for Israel’s elite, the announcement by the US just seems to confirm reality for Palestinians.
Ever since Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank more than 50 years ago, it has used its settlements to effectively annexe Palestinian land.
Some 700,000 people now live in vast settlement blocs that are effectively treated as if they are part of Israel.
While Israelis can travel seamlessly between settlements and the Israeli state proper, Palestinians lose ever more of their land.
And although the US has officially opposed settlement?building, it—along with the rest of the world—has effectively let Israel get away with this.
Opposed it, that is, until last week. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said that calling the settlements illegal had “not advanced the cause of peace.”
What he meant is that it doesn’t fit with president Donald Trump’s method of supporting Israel as a cornerstone of the US’s strategy to control the Middle East.
Since Trump came to office, he has ditched the notion of a “two-state solution”. Instead he is trying to push through what he calls the “deal of the century”. Under this plan, Israel will be allowed to annexe settlement land, and keep full military control over the area.
Land left for the Palestinians won’t be any kind of state—just a series of fragments under Israeli military control.
Working towards this has included recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US’s embassy there. Earlier this year Trump also said he considered the Golan Heights—land seized by from Syria—as part of Israel.
The two-state solution survived as an idea for as long as it appeared to offer Palestinian leaders the possibility of a state. It also satisfied the need of the Israeli state—founded on the basis of maintaining a Jewish ethnic majority in Palestine—to keep Arabs segregated.
Those in Israel who still back the two-state solution do so on the basis that they can’t bear the thought of having to live alongside Arabs. Amir Peretz, leader of Israel’s once-dominant Labor Party, opposed last week’s announcement because it would allow “millions of Palestinians to demand full citizenship and equal rights.”
But the idea of a two-state solution broke down long ago. In reality the supposed “peace process” that the two?state solution was founded on gave Israel an opportunity to extend and solidify its occupation.
In doing that, it has left little land for an independent Palestinian state—and what remains would be completely tied and subordinated to Israel.
There are only two solutions to this, and neither of them involve two states.
One is Trump’s plan—which means a new drive to clear Palestinians from their land. This is already underway, as Israel has increased its settlement building and attempts to clear surrounding Palestinian villages.
This is backed by all the major parties in Israel. Those that don’t, such as Labor, are marginalised.
That’s because in Israeli politics, the alternative is unacceptable. But it’s the only just, anti-racist one.
This is for Jews and Arabs to live together in a single, secular state with equal democratic rights for all of its citizens.
Achieving this new single state means accepting the end of a state founded on ethnic division—and supporting the struggle to make that possible.
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