From Consortium News
The possibility of a meaningful peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has taken another dark turn with President-elect Donald Trump's choice of lawyer David Friedman, who holds hardline views in favor of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
In a statement from the Trump transition team, Friedman also said he "looked forward to moving the U.S. embassy to Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem," which once was supposed to be divided between Jewish and Palestinian control.
But a different twist to Trump's ambassadorial choice could be that it will kill off the illusion of a "two-state solution," a mirage that has receded farther into the distance as over a half million Jewish settlers moved onto what was intended to be the territory of a Palestinian state. That, in turn, would confront Israel with the choice of a "one-state solution" that grants both Jews and Arabs equal rights or an "apartheid state," which denies rights to Palestinians or treats them as second-class citizens.
I spoke about Trump's choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel and the risks of Trump's emerging Israeli policies with Ali Abunimah, the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli/Palestinian Impasse. He is the co-founder and director of the Electronic Intifada, and the winner of many human rights awards. A resident of Chicago, he contributes regularly to the The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.
Dennis Bernstein: Ali, it's good to talk to you again, but the news is not so good for you. You want to begin with your understanding of who David Friedman is"?
Ali Abunimah: Well, Friedman is ... a bankruptcy lawyer. He's Donald Trump's personal lawyer, for the past 15 years, and his campaign adviser on Israel. His views are so hardline that he's been described as being even to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, which tells you something. In fact, Friedman is the president of a non-profit that has raised about $10 million over the last five years to directly fund Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
And, in fact, that organization is named as a defendant in a lawsuit that was filed earlier this year in federal court by 20 Palestinians against American organizations and individuals who are raising money for settlements. And not just for building settlements, but for buying weapons...
The lawsuit alleges that these organizations are basically involved in money laundering, arms trafficking, and aiding and abetting murder, maiming, theft of Palestinian private property, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and other acts, which are illegal under U.S. and international law. So that lawsuit is currently underway. And Friedman is the president of one of the defendants. And we reported... on the Electronic Intifada [on Dec. 16], that that fact had not been picked up anywhere else.
Friedman, you know, to some extent it would be a repudiation, if Trump's policy moves in the direction that Friedman would advocate, which is outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank, of course, even more settlement construction and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, that would be a major rhetorical shift in U.S. policy.
But to tell you the truth, Dennis, that's really where we already are in practice. If you look at the reality of where we are, the Israelis have been building settlements, effectively annexing the West Bank with total impunity. And not just impunity, with the full support of every U.S. administration, and not least the Obama administration, which in September signed off on an unconditional 10 year, $38 billion minimum, guaranteed, military aid package. I mean $38 billion is the minimum. It's not the total package, because they can still come back for more. That greatly increases the current U.S. aid to Israel.
So, part of me is saying, well this is simply a more honest labeling of what the U.S. policy already is. There was not going to be a two-state solution, even if Hillary was elected. There was not going to be any real consequences for Israeli settlements. So, I think this is another horrible sign of where our country is on so many issues.
But I think it's an opportunity, also, for us to say to people, "Well, you can't pretend there's a peace process anymore, so why aren't you signing up to BDS -- boycott, divestment and sanctions -- and other campaigns and tactics that are independent of what the government does?" The real people power to begin to hold Israel accountable and change its situation. I think that's both the challenge and opportunity that's put in front of us.
DB: I guess it does look... that's about right. That this will simply... under Trump, they will just draw the line deeper, harder and darker, in terms of what the policy is. But the policy, it hasn't changed in decades. And it doesn't seem to be changing.