The Obama administration just handed Israel the largest military aid deal in US history. Now it is feigning outrage that Israel keeps colonizing the occupied West Bank, as it has done for decades, in defiance of the White House’s wishes.
“We strongly condemn the Israeli government’s recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Wednesday.
Toner added that “this settlement’s location deep in the West Bank, far closer to Jordan than Israel, would link a string of outposts that effectively divide the West Bank and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state more remote.”
Though this was worded more robustly than usual, similar condemnations have been issued by the State Department countless times before.
“Cementing a one-state reality”
But there was a new element in the US condemnation: “Proceeding with this new settlement is another step towards cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”
This generated cynical reactions from critics of US policy:That particular sentence also caught the interest of Associated Press reporter Matt Lee, who pressed State Department spokesperson John Kirby about it during Thursday’s press briefing.
The exchange that followed can be watched here:During the exchange, Lee asks for elaboration on the previous steps – as implied in the statement – which the State Department views as undermining a two-state solution.
Kirby replies that the State Department was referring to earlier settlement building, adding that “what we need to see is leadership across the board moving towards a two-state solution.”
Lee then asks whether the Obama administration believes that Israel is “just flat-out either lying or doesn’t care about its stated commitment to a two-state solution and is, in fact, while saying publicly that that’s what they want, actually actively taking steps to cement a one-state solution?”
Emphasizing the State Department’s use of the word “cementing,” Lee says that the verb generally isn’t used to describe something “that happens by accident … It’s doing something intentionally.”
Kirby can only say that it is hard to see settlement building as consistent with Israel’s stated support for a two-state solution in historic Palestine (the land now partitioned into Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip).
Jewish and democratic?
Lee eventually pierces the core of the anguishing – for the US government – reality in Palestine.
Lee asks: “The Obama administration believes that the current government of Israel wants a perpetual occupation and a one-state reality that is not Jewish, or not Jewish and at the same time democratic?”
Kirby responds: “All I can go by is what they’ve said they want, and they say they want a two-state solution. What we’re saying is that this kind of activity is actually moving them in the other direction. It flies in the face of those comments.”
After a few more go-arounds concerning Israel’s actions versus its words, Said Arikat of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds asks Kirby: “Would the United States support equal rights for the Palestinians in a one-state situation?”
“I’m not going to get into a hypothetical situation,” Kirby responds. “What we continue to support is a two-state solution.”
And yet, as Lee pointed out, the State Department said a one-state solution is being actively cemented – one in which Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel live under a single regime of occupation, colonization and legal discrimination that affords them vastly inferior rights to Jews.
The White House will soon have to concede that it is not a hypothetical situation, but an extremely unequal reality that can only be maintained with brutal violence – and a blank check from the United States.
That reality is not lost on a growing number of Americans who are tired of funding it.