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Trump rewards Netanyahu's apartheid

DONALD TRUMP’S decision to proclaim Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital will bring neither peace nor security for Israelis or Palestinians.

Despite his claim to be assisting the currently non-existent Middle East process, the US president’s crass and provocative statement is designed for domestic consumption.

It fulfils his election pledge to Jewish supporters of Israel and to Evangelical Christians who believe that relocation of all Jews to Israel and their acceptance of Jesus as saviour are a prelude to rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem and the second coming of Christ.

Whether Trump believes such a fanciful yarn is irrelevant. Those who do formed a firm part of his presidential election base and he intends to further solidify it.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s celebration of Trump’s declaration is understandable. He sees it as the first step in an international dance of submission that rewards intransigence, ethnic cleansing and colonial expansionism.

Netanyahu and his ilk believe that, backed by the world’s military superpower, they can tighten their grip on the West Bank and wait for critics to accept facts on the ground.

They point to successes for this approach, from Egypt’s peace agreement, under Anwar Sadat, with Israel in 1979 and Jordan’s subsequent peace treaty in 1994, but Netanyahu asserts, justifiably, that further unacknowledged links exist.

“For the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy but increasingly as an ally,” he informed Trump in February.

The Israeli PM has been adept at hopping aboard the anti-Iran bandwagon set in motion by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf state allies, deploying warplanes over Lebanon to hit Syrian government targets in support of Saudi-backed jihadist forces battling Damascus in Quneitra province.

While under attack at home on relentless charges linked to corruption, Netanyahu is unconcerned by warnings to Trump’s erstwhile regional allies.

Nor will the Israeli leader be too perturbed by the responses of Washington’s European allies, including Britain.

Theresa May told Parliament that Britain’s approach has not changed, that it would  not recognise Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem and remained committed to a two-state solution.

However, her demeanour was downbeat, as she ignored calls at Prime Minister’s Questions to recognise the state of Palestine and to condemn the US president’s position.

She and her EU colleagues ought to listen more attentively to the warnings of likely heightened tension and violence in the region offered by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Foreign Minister Riyad Malki.

Or to Israel’s Arab Joint List spokesman Ayman Odeh who calls Trump a “pyromaniac” who “will set the entire region ablaze with his madness” and can no longer be “the broker of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Or to prominent Palestinian political representative Hanan Ashrawi who fears that Trump’s action risks destroying “the chances of peace, stability and security indefinitely, unleashing a religious war and sectarian strife in the region and beyond.”

If Washington’s European allies are serious about achieving a peaceful two-state solution, they must accept their own responsibilities and reject being led by the nose by successive White House residents.

It is crystal clear that the obstacle to a peaceful resolution is Israel’s refusal to contemplate an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Europe must move beyond soft soap now to back similar firm peaceful pressure through the boycott, divestment, sanctions measures that delivered a just alternative to apartheid South Africa.

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