Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed by a series of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements-related measures that the Government of Israel is taking, or has indicated it intends to take, in the wake of the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
APN warns President Trump that acquiescing to such measures would send a dangerous message of weakness to the region and the world, right at the outset of his tenure in the White House. It would signal to America's allies and adversaries alike that this new president lacks the ability or the interest to recognize and defend core U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. It would announce to the world that on a critical issues like this – on which U.S. policies reverberate across the globe – the Trump Administration cannot or will not stand up to pressure from a narrow constituency of zealots and ideologues who prioritize an ideological, messianic Middle East agenda over national security and best interests of both the American people and Israel.
Make no mistake, acquiescence by the President Trump to these Israeli policies and actions would jeopardize Israeli security and further destabilize the region, with serious negative implications for U.S. interests and U.S. national security in the region and around the world.
APN urges President Trump to recognize that the actions of this Israeli government are exploitative in the extreme, seeking to both deepen and take advantage of American political and partisan cleavages in order to register "victories" that would come at the price not only of Israel's own real interests, but of American interests and the American people. We urge President Trump to not let the Israeli right-wing make a "freier" (Hebrew for "sucker") out of him, but instead to stand up to both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the settlement supporters who are prominently represented among Trump's own supporters and advisors. President Trump is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu next month. APN urges Trump not to wait for the meeting but rather to act immediately to reject and condemn these dangerous initiatives.
Specifically, in the past few days alone:
• The government of Israel approved the construction of 2,500 new homes in West Bank settlements. Announcing the move, today, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: "We are returning to normal life in Judea and Samaria."
• The Jerusalem Committee for Planning and Construction approved the construction of 560 new homes in East Jerusalem settlements. The Committee's Chairman Meir Turjeman said: "I did not wait long, and on Trump's first day as president – as I promised – I acted."
• Israeli politicians are applying heavy pressure on Trump to take immediate action to move America's Israel embassy to Jerusalem. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, has launched a campaign urging Israelis to sign a petition calling on Trump to take such action immediately.
• Netanyahu's Cabinet discussed consideration of legislation to annex to Israel a vast, strategic area in the West Bank, east of Jerusalem, which includes the settlement of Maale Adumim, one of the largest settlements in the West Bank, home to some 40,000 Israelis. The matter has been postponed pending the Prime Minister's upcoming meeting with President Trump. Two other senior members of Netanyahu's cabinet, Ministers Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Katz, have also introduced plans to annex broader areas of the West Bank and linked their plans' timing to Trump's inauguration.
• Following its approval by the Cabinet, Knesset members from Netanyahu's right wing coalition have put on the Knesset's docket a bill that would grant legal status to West Bank illegal outposts – proto-settlements that are located throughout the West Bank, which were built on privately-owned Palestinian land in violation of Israeli law. Sponsors of the bill have declared their intention to bring it to a vote immediately after Trump's inauguration.
• The Knesset passed in the first of three "readings" (votes) a bill that would bar entry to Israel of foreign nationals who support or advocate boycotts against Israel or the settlements.
Commenting on these recent developments, APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said:
"Americans for Peace Now, like its Israel sister organization Shalom Achshav, is a proud Zionist organization, committed to working to ensure Israel's security, stability, and viability as a democracy and a Jewish state. It is precisely because of this commitment that we are appalled, alarmed, and, indeed, outraged, by those who are eager to exploit the inauguration of a new administration in Washington to promote legislation that is antithetical to a secure, stable, Jewish and democratic Israel.
"For the sake of both American and Israeli national security interests, it is incumbent upon President Trump to immediately and publicly make clear that his inauguration will not serve as a pretext for these irresponsible Israeli government measures. He must now say 'no' to Netanyahu and his cabinet, as well as to the settlement advocates who are prominent among his supporters and advisers.
"Annexing West Bank territory, establishing new settlements across the West Bank through the legalization of 'outposts,' and expanding settlements in East Jerusalem undermine the very possibility of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians. This is not a left-wing view; rather, it is a fact that is openly celebrated by the pro-settlement, pro-Greater Israel, anti-two-states forces that support such a move. Such a move would decisively transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a zero-sum battle, to the detriment of Israel's security, its place in the international community, and its character as a democracy with a Jewish character – all in the service of a far right-wing ideological, messianic agenda that prioritizes land over peace, over human life, and over the core Jewish values on which Israel was founded.
"Likewise, it is increasingly clear that many in the Israeli government and Knesset want to re-define support for Israel to mean support for settlements and the occupation, and thereby silence and delegitimize all who oppose settlements and the occupation, both in Israel and abroad. For our part, APN proudly defends Israel's right to exist and its right to be treated as any other nation in international forums. We proudly work to secure strong U.S. support for Israel's security needs and defend U.S. aid to Israel. And, while we oppose boycotting Israel, we unapologetically support boycotts that narrowly target settlements and the occupation - based on our conviction that settlements are not a part of Israel and threaten Israel's very future.
"We are appalled by the legislation pending in the Knesset that would bar entry to Israel to us and others for taking this position – a position we know to be undeniably pro-Israel. We fiercely reject and condemn this outrageous bill. Should it pass into law, it will be an ugly stain on Israel. It will add Israel to the club of nations that treat non-violent protest as a crime, and that irrationally believe that closing borders can prevent the spread of ideas. If this legislation passes into law, APN will challenge it."