US ambassador to Israel says it has 'right' to annex West Bank

US ambassador to Israel says it has 'right' to annex West Bank
By U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv -, Public Domain,
Israel has a right to annex at least some, but “unlikely all,” of the West Bank, the United States ambassador, David M. Friedman, said in an interview, opening the door to American acceptance of what would be an enormously provocative act.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to begin annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a move that would violate international law and could be a fatal blow to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Under certain circumstances,” Mr. Friedman said, “I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” —

This should not come as a surprise, after all Friedman’s boss is a criminal who has repeatedly defrauded employees and customers. Trump also believes the US should have “taken” Iraqi oil fields, and has spent his entire career running a criminal business enterprise. From violating housing discrimination laws in the 70s, to extensive tax fraud, to facilitating money laundering, the list of Trump’s alleged criminal activities is long. Throughout it all, Trump had derided those he has cheated as “losers”. His supremacist impulses and bullying penchant for violence towards the powerless are an essential part of Trump’s politics

His administration is now gearing up to enable theft on a mass scale. The NY Times calls this a “provocative act”. It’s also plainly illegal, as virtually all of Israel’s policies in the West Bank have been.

Friedman’s support for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should have disqualified him from being appointed to any US foreign policy post, far less that of ambassador. But then again, Trump own son-in-law has done much the same. Jared Kushner’s family foundation donated to Friedman’s American Friends of Beit-El Yeshiva, which supports a radical West Bank settlement.

Though all settlements are illegal under the Geneva conventions governing military occupations, Beit-El, the settlement Friedman funds, is particularly egregious, it lies deep in the West Bank and is constructed almost entirely on private land owned by Palestinians. In 2015, settlers clashed violently with Israeli police and security forces trying to tear down buildings the Israeli high-court had ordered demolished. The settlement began when the Israeli army seized Palestinian lands in 1970 for a military outpost and then subsequently turned it over to Jewish-Israeli settlers. This flimsy “security” pretext is not why Beit-El is significant for the settlement movement.

But Yael Ben Yashar, a longtime resident tour guide, doesn’t see anything mysterious behind the unusual fascination with this one settlement – at least within a certain demographic heavily represented among Trump’s Jewish supporters. “Beit El is mentioned 44 times in the Bible,” she notes, “and this is the place where God promised our forefather Jacob that the Land of Israel would be his. Historically, it is the most important of all the settlements.” — Haaretz

Friedman’s charity has donated tens of millions to this settlement, which is home to the right-wing Arutz Sheva media group. Most egregiously, all these contributions have been tax deductible, like the other $220 million dollars sent from the US to West Bank settlements each year. Though the US has long held the settlements as illegal, successive administrations have allowed the flow of tax-deductible funds to radical, even violent settlements. Meanwhile, Israel’s government has actively supported and enabled the theft of Palestinian property. Israel’s parliament passed a law a couple of years ago that would retroactively legalize these thefts of land from ordinary Palestinians (and any future thefts).

When Friedman was first appointed, five former ambassadors to Israel wrote to the Senate committee, saying Friedman was, in their view, unqualified:

The ambassadors, who served Republican and Democratic presidents, say Friedman accused President Barack Obama and the entire State Department of anti-Semitism. They say he's also characterized supporters of J Street, a liberal Jewish group, as "kapos," the Jews who cooperated with Nazis during the Holocaust. — Associated Press

Trump has always had a penchant for corrupt regimes in the Middle-East who embody his urge to exploit the poor and powerless. That is part of the reason his administration has developed such close ties with the Saudis. The fact that Saudis and their allies have spent liberally at Trump’s properties also doesn’t hurt. That is likely why Trump and his closest advisers like Kushner, have sought to protect the Saudis from criticism for their killing of Jamal Khashoggi. They have gone so far as to try to fast track the transfer of weapons technology to the Saudis, despite clear indication the Saudis have committed war crimes in Yemen. Trump undoubtedly expects to be rewarded monetarily by the Saudis. That corruption is in plain sight.

It was no surprise then, that Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, where he bonded with official representatives of the absolute monarchy. His next stop was Israel, where he found a deep camaraderie with Israel’s ruling far-right party Likud and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The motivation again seems to be partly financial, influenced by campaign contributions from donors like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. In return, the Trump administration has lobbied foreign governments to support Adelson’s casino ventures. Again, the corruption is in plain sight.

Yet we cannot lay the blame for the current situation Palestinians face at the feet of the Trump administration alone. Successive US administrations that have consistently undermined the rights of Palestinians in the pursuit of short-term goals in the middle-east or political advantages at home have set the stage for Trump’s appointees to take advantage of it. If earlier US administrations had adopted policies that recognized the equal rights of Palestinians, we would not be where we are.

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