Key members of the team chosen by US President Donald Trump to revive the effectively defunct “peace process” have written an op-ed in the Washington Post backing Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, special representative Jason Greenblatt, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman penned the column, published in the Post on July 19, which blames Hamas for “needlessly prolonging the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza.”
The Trump team pointed out that 53 percent of the people residing in Gaza live below the poverty line, and 49 percent of Gazans are unemployed — consequences of the crippling illegal blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza since shortly after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006.
Without mentioning the blockade, the team argued that Hamas was solely to blame for its consequences, thus effectively endorsing Israel’s policy of collectively punishing the entire civilian population for living under Hamas’s rule.
The collective punishment of civilian populations is a violation of international law and amounts to a war crime.
The Trump team suggested that in order for Gazans’ suffering to come to an end — meaning for Israel’s illegal blockade to end — the Hamas government must either be replaced or acquiesce to Israel and the US’s demands within the framework of the US-led so-called “peace process”.
The US has long demanded that Hamas recognize the state of Israel, abide by the Oslo Accords and other agreements under the “peace process”, and renounce violence.
The US does not demand that Israel recognize the state of Palestine, cease its perpetual violations of the prior agreements as well as international law, or renounce violence, which it routinely resorts to in order to suppress the Palestinians struggling to gain their freedom.
The “peace process” has been sold to the public as a means to achieve peace, but in reality is the means by which Israel and the US have long blocked implementation of the two-state solution.
This solution is premised in international law and calls for Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, envisioning a viable independent state of Palestine alongside Israel and a just solution for Palestinian refugees.
Israel has rejected the two-state solution since its inception, favoring persistent military occupation of the West Bank in order to facilitate its illegal colonization project.
Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank during the June 1967 war and has ever since been illegally building Jewish settlements there. US government officials have often rhetorically opposed the settlements, but in actual deed have supported their construction, despite the fact that they violate international law.
Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements also violates the Oslo Accords — the same agreement consecutive US executive administrations have demanded that Hamas uphold.
Whereas the two-state solution is premised in international law, the framework for the Oslo “peace process” is premised on a rejection of the applicability of international law toward a resolution. Instead, under this process, the Palestinians must negotiate with their occupier over how much of their own land they will be permitted to exercise some measure of sovereignty over.
This US insistence on rejecting international law was even more loudly pronounced when Trump declared in December 2017 that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and that the US would move its embassy there.
Under international law, all of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are “occupied Palestinian territories”.
Most of the world has already recognized Palestine as a state, as has the United Nations organization since November 2012.
The UN Security Council, of which the US is a permanent member, has also forbidden member nations from establishing their embassies in Jerusalem due to Israel’s illegal measures to annex occupied East Jerusalem. Under international law, these measures are null and void, and the US embassy move, too, is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 478 of 1980, the resolution that forbade member states from establishing Israel embassies in Jerusalem due to fact that Israel’s illegal annexation measures prejudice the rights of the Palestinians.
Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem effectively sealed the fate of the “peace process” as defunct. While he has assembled a team to try to restart the process, so far, it has gone nowhere, and there is little prospect of a revival given how Trump’s action undermined the perception of credibility his predecessor, Barack Obama, had striven hard to maintain with respect to the “peace process”.
While rhetorically expressing support for a Palestinian state, the Obama administration, too, backed Israel’s criminal policies with financial, military, and diplomatic support.
Prior to Obama, the Bush administration, too, lent US backing to Israel’s criminal policies against the Palestinians. After Hamas legitimately won elections in 2006, taking over control of the Palestinian legislature, the US conspired with Israel and Fatah, the party of the illegitimate president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government.
Abbas’s legal term as president expired in 2009, but he has remained in office, with US and Israeli approval, as a result of his largely successful coup against Hamas. The PA itself was established under the Oslo Accords essentially to serve as Israel’s collaborator in enforcing its occupation regime.
The result of the US-backed coup attempt in 2007 was a civil conflict in Gaza and the expulsion of Fatah by Hamas. Whereas the legitimately elected Hamas government remained as governing authority in Gaza, Abbas illegally replaced the Hamas Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh, with Salaam Fayyad, and continued to rule in the West Bank.
After the failure of the US-backed coup to overthrow the Hamas government in Gaza, Israel responded by escalating its blockade policy, in place since the 1967 war, by closing land crossings and implementing a virtual siege of the Strip, strictly limiting the movement of goods and people into and out of the territory.
In November 2008, the US embassy in Tel Aviv cabled Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to explain how the goal of Israel’s blockade policy was “to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis” — which the Israeli government has defined as nothing short of outright starvation of the population.
Israel’s purpose, the cable reiterated, was “to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse”.
By blaming Hamas for the consequences of Israel’s illegal blockade, the Trump administration is communicating to the Israeli government that it has the full support of the US government for its collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza.
This article was originally published at Foreign Policy Journal.