Jewish Settlements: US Reverses 40-Year Policy

Jewish Settlements are the thorniest issue in the Mid-East Peace Process. Mike Pompeo just announced that the US is siding with Israel on the issue. Find out why this is a very bad idea.

A friend of mine from work moved to Texas.  Shortly after that, he turned into a born-again Christian.  His views changed on a lot of topics, and most of them were no surprise.  The change that confused me, though, was when he adopted a radically hard-line stance in favour of Israel.

I figured out what happened. My friend had fallen in with the Christian Zionist movement. These are passionate fundamentalist Christians who believe that establishing a Jewish state in the Holy Land will bring about the Second Coming of Christ.

They think this will usher in the New Jerusalem and bring about the long-promised Kingdom of God.  In terms of day-to-day politics, Christian Zionists believe Israel can do no wrong.  This is especially true of conservative Israeli politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Christian Zionists very prominent politically

The Christian Zionists have become very prominent politically in recent years. They are a vital component of the base of support for the current White House. It’s true that all US administrations have been sympathetic to Israel, and rightly so.

That support has always been tempered, though, with empathy for the Palestinians and hope for a two-state solution.  However, since 2016, the one-sided approach to the Mid-East Peace Process has been unprecedented.  This is the most pro-Israel Administration in US history.

There are three primary examples of this biased approach to US-Israeli relations. The Administration’s first instance of kowtowing was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They doubled down on this policy by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s recognized capital under international law, to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem not capital of Israel or Palestine

When the United Nations established the State of Israel, everyone understood that Jerusalem would not be the capital of either Israel or Palestine. Jerusalem would not be part of either country, but instead, an international body would administer the city to ensure access for pilgrims of all faiths. That never materialized.

Twenty years later, during the Six-Day War, Israel seized East Jerusalem, including the Old City. The Israeli Defence Forces have occupied it ever since. The long-term status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the whole Mid-East Peace Process. All significant allies of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have condemned the embassy move. In spite of all of this, the Administration careened ahead with it.

The second gift from this Administration to Netanyahu was accepting Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.   This is a territory that belongs to Syria.  It was also seized and occupied by the Israeli Defence Forces during the Six-Day War.  This new, radical US position on the Golan was instantly condemned by 35 countries, including all major US allies, the Arab League, the European Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

timed to coincide with Israeli election

Why did the White House endorse Israel’s position on the Golan Heights? They timed the move to coincide with the Israeli election. They were hoping that it would solidify Netanyahu’s political status. That failed. Netanyahu couldn’t pull a coalition together, and Israel had to hold a second election to try to settle things. Forming a government is still up in the air. The Administration didn’t get much out of the move in the end, although Israel has promised to develop a new Golan community to be known as Trump Heights.

Today, the US Secretary of State announced a third measure to coddle Netanyahu. They’ve announced that the US now supports Jewish settlements in Israeli occupied territories. This is a complete about-face on 40 years of firmly held US policy. If there is one Israeli practice that all experts and observers condemn as an obstacle to the Mid-East Peace Process, it’s the settlements.

To quote Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Article 49 also prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory.”

Settlements violate international law.

Israel has done both of these things as part of the Jewish settlement process. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention have both reaffirmed that the settlements violate international law.

Israel’s Jewish settlements have been condemned by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. UN Security Council Resolution 465 tells Israel “to dismantle the existing settlements and, in particular, to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.” The Security Council reiterated that the settlements are illegal in 2016 in Resolution 2334.

Under these circumstances, you’d think that Jewish settlements would be the last hot potato issues a US administration would want to touch.  Indeed, all previous administrations have fiercely condemned them. All three of these blunders ruin America’s reputation with its allies and the international community generally.  They crush all hope of the US acting as a trusted broker in the peace process, something the White House aspires to, calling it The Deal of the Century.

white Christians – 73% of Republicans.

So, what’s the motivation behind all this? It goes back to the Republican Party’s base of support. Eighty-one percent of white born again Christians voted Republican in 2016. Even though the number of white Christians is declining in the United States, from 80% in the 70s to 46% today, they still represent 73% of Republicans.

This is all about currying votes with Christian Zionists.  Readers may wonder if this is such a bad thing.  Don’t these measures at least make things better for the Jewish people, both in Israel and in the diaspora? 

Well, no, not really.  For example, this is not going to pull in any votes from the Jewish community in the United States.  The vast majority of Jewish Americans are Democrats, and they are the most liberal minority group in the US.  Jews are actually more likely than Christians to say that the US government favours Israel too much.

More Jews than Christians say government favors Israel too much

Readers might also wonder if the Christian Zionist movement isn’t a good thing in that at least fundamentalists are reaching out to the Jewish community.  Won’t this promote religious tolerance in America?

Again, not really.  Christian Zionists believe it is their religious duty to support the State of Israel.  The Jewish people themselves?  Not so much.  Christian Zionist leaders, like John Hagee, have declared that the Holocaust was ordained by God to send the Jewish people back to Israel.  He has also stated that, since the Jews did not accept Christ, they  “birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.”

“Even so,” readers may ask, “aren’t these Christian Zionists a lunatic fringe– a tiny minority of Evangelical Christians?”  As a matter of fact, 80% of Evangelical Christians are sympathetic to Christian Zionism.  They may not all belong to John Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, but it’s the largest group of its kind in the country.  At their last summit in Washington, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton all made speeches in support of the group.

In the end, this is all about votes

In the end, this move to support Jewish settlements is all about votes.  I don’t mean ballots in Israel or the Jewish electorate in the United States.  It’s about buying the votes of radical Christian extremists in America.  If an election were held today, it would be a landslide for one of Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Standers. 

Republicans know all this.  They’ve written off the White House, but they need to hold on to their base at all costs.  A cheap way to buy their endorsement is to mollycoddle Israel.  That’s what Mike Pompeo did again today.

We hope that American voters see through this and educate themselves on Jewish settlements and the Christian Zionist movement

We always have more to learn if we dare to know.

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