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Why Pompeo’s provocative visit to a West Bank settlement is a bad idea

Lame-duck U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo toured an Israeli settlement in the Palestinian West Bank on Thursday, November 19, 2020, the BBC reported. It’s the first time a high-level U.S. official has ever done so, and the action is considered provocative. But it’s consistent with Trump’s hard-line approach to the Palestinian problem. Read story here.

The West Bank is home to a large majority of the Middle East’s Palestinians, a displaced people who have nowhere else to go. They were pushed aside when Israel was created in 1948 as a Jewish homeland following the Nazi extermination of European Jewry in the Holocaust (Jews also were persecuted in Russia and other countries), and today are more or less a conquered people living under military occupation.

A bit of history: Prior to Israel becoming an independent state, the Middle East was under British mandate, not exactly a colony, except for the portion under Turkish control, which Turkey lost in World War 1. After World War 2, British lost its colonial empire. It didn’t willingly give up Palestine, either, but a Jewish insurgency persuaded Britain to leave Palestine, while the U.N. thrashed out statehood issues.

Ever since, Palestinians and Israelis have fought over the land they co-inhabit, with the Jews holding Israel, and the Palestinians concentrated in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis have a modern army; the outgunned Palestinians, supported by Arab countries, Syria, and Iran, launch rocket attacks against Israel. By engaging in terrorism, the Palestinians forfeited much of the West’s sympathy for their cause, although those countries have made efforts to mediate the conflict and achieve a peaceful solution.

For that to happen, the Palestinian leaders must agree to Israel’s continued existence, and the Israelis must let the Palestinians be a free people with a country of their own. For decades, a two-state solution has been assumed to be the foundation of an eventual peace, but the Israeli settlements in the West Bank undercut the idea of Palestinian sovereignty, and signal an intention to make the Israeli occupation permanent — a policy discouraged by the U.S. until Trump came along.

Trump has sided with the Israeli hardliners, pouring gas on the fire, and pushing peace farther away. By participating in this, Pompeo becomes a bad guy along with Trump in the Middle East drama. Saying this isn’t endorsing Palestinian violence against Israel, which is to be condemned. There are no innocents in that conflict — but that’s what makes it so hard to resolve. All I’m saying here is that Trump’s and Pompeo’s meddling is unhelpful and serves only to undermine serious peace efforts.

The only good thing to say about it as they’ve got only a few weeks left to stir the pot, and under the new Biden administration, we can expect a resumption of a more rational U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Photo: Keeping in mind it takes both sides to make peace, if you were a Palestinian, would you want this in your neighborhood? And how, exactly, does it help? It doesn’t.

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