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US ‘closer than ever’ to viewing situation in West Bank as apartheid

December 2, 2022 at 12:05 pm

B’Tselem put up banners saying ‘President Biden, This is apartheid’ in the streets of Ramallah and Bethlehem, ahead of Biden’s visit to apartheid Israel [btselem/Twitter]

Senior US officials are closer than ever to viewing Israel’s occupation as apartheid. A wall-to-wall consensus exists within the international human rights community over Israel’s practice of the crime of apartheid. But until now no Western government has backed the findings of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), two groups Washington usually relies upon to gauge human rights abuses around the world.

In the frenzied discussions underway between Washington and Tel Aviv over the formation of the far-right Israeli government, the Occupation State was cautioned that a situation in which the Israeli occupation’s control of the West Bank would be seen as apartheid was now “closer and more real than ever.” The comment was made in response to the transfer of Civil Administration of the occupied West Bank to Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich.

Details of the closed-door talks were reported by Haaretz. According to the Israeli newspaper the Americans are following reports of the coalition talks with concern, trying to understand how the next government will behave regarding the West Bank. Over the past weeks, the Americans have cautioned against transferring the authority to act in the West Bank from the Defence Ministry to other departments. Israel was warned that such a move would be interpreted as unilateral annexation.

Read: US asks Netanyahu not to give defence job to extremist Smotrich

Annexation that would keep the Palestinians in an inferior status and would be tantamount to practicing an apartheid regime, American officials are reported saying. One senior Israeli official who was privy to the talks assessed that a situation in which the Israeli control of the West Bank would be seen as apartheid was now “closer and more real than ever.”

Israel’s annexation would be seen as a slap in the face by Washington, which could potentially lead to a major deterioration in the two states’ relations and hurt Israel’s preparation to attack Iran. The risk of the Palestinian Authority (PA) collapsing was also discussed as well as the possible consequence of Israel taking responsibility for the entire West Bank.

Last week Israel’s Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, was accused of breaking his agreement with Arab countries that normalised relations with the Occupation State during the current coalition negotiations. Reneging on the “Abraham Accords”, Netanyahu authorised the “soft annexation” of the occupied West Bank.

The warning issued by US officials to their counterparts in Tel Aviv comes amid growing disaffection within the American Jewish community over Israel’s embrace of the far-right which are an anathema to the values of most Jews around the world. Many are asking “Why even bother with Israel?”