in service of the
The Trump Administration
At best, the Trump administration is a somewhat mesmerising soap opera with seemingly endless sequels, but at worst it is a very dangerous regime undoing the very frameworks upon which international accord and trust depend.
Mutual trust and respect take a long time to build and can be instantly undone. We all know this at a personal level. At a national and international level, we may not notice frameworks being unwound until it is too late. Central to accord and goodwill is unequivocal commitment to international law. To rely upon international law, even demand its compliance from others, when it suits, and ignore it when it does not suit, has led to catastrophe and last century to two world wars.
Today, from the mouth of secretary of State Pompeo the Trump administration has declared Israeli Settlements in the Palestinian Territories are not in breach of the law.
The following is a statement on this matter from the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network of which I am president:
The Trump administration’s announcement - that they do not regard settlements as inconsistent with international law - disregards the entire international legal framework for a just solution for Israel and Palestine. This is another attempt by Trump to re-write the rulebook.
Israel’s settlement building has the explicit aim of undermining the establishment of a Palestinian State, it is activity which has elicited world condemnation since the 1960s. Settlements are a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Conventions which prohibits the transference of civilian population into an Occupied area. This legal situation has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2016 the UN Security Council stated settlements are a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders”.
This is the third time the Trump administration has sought to demolish the UN framework for a just solution – their move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv disregards international consensus that Jerusalem is a final status issue recognising the national capital claims of both Palestine and Israel; and their announcement about the Golan Heights ignores it is Occupied Syrian Territory. The US is giving Israel a green light to continue to be an expansionist State.
Given our Prime Minister has acknowledged that “settlements undermine peace – and contribute to the stalemate we now see" (ref), we call on the Government to reconfirm Australia’s opposition to the Israel’s settlements.
Australia must be clear and principled in our commitment to international law. Israel cannot continue to seize Palestinian land. Israel cannot keep pushing Palestinians into smaller enclaves. Israel cannot continue a military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in perpetuity. And the Trump administration can't unilaterally re-write international law.
Australia must make a very clear choice and publicly condemn the Pompeo statement. In our region, particularly in the face of growing Chinese influence, we depend upon clear observance of international law. It is outrageous of a foreign power (America) to declare that the indigenous people of Palestine can suddenly be made homeless, that they are dispensable. If they are, then potentially all people are dispensable if they get in the way of national imperialistic or colonising ambitions. In Australia we have still to deal with the consequences of making the Aboriginal people dispensable. We cannot and must not join America in doing the same thing to the Palestinians.
Now is the time for Australia to tread an independent path, neither pro-America, nor pro-China.