Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett has said that even the idea of a Palestinian state is over following Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency this past Tuesday. He said: “Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state. […] The era of a Palestinian state is over.”’ Current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, also supported this position during the 2015 general election to help his chances, though he later backtracked once elected, causing controversy. Bennett, for his part, is no stranger to controversy either. He is leader of the hard-line conservative Jewish Home party and is known for his extremist viewpoints, which nonetheless have found significant support among Israelis. For example, last month, Bennett said Israelis have to “give their lives” to ensure that the occupied West Bank is annexed into Israel, adding that “We have to mark the dream, and the dream is that Judea and Samaria [Israeli names for the West Bank] will be part” of Israel.
During the primary, Trump promised to be “neutral” in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, saying that he would give brokering a lasting peace deal “one hell of a shot.” Many interpreted this as his support for the “two-state solution” involving separate countries for Israel and Palestine, a solution that many Israelis oppose. Trump, in the general election, sought to appeal to Israel – as is custom for US presidential candidates – saying that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested Jerusalem al-Quds and recognize that city as Israel’s capital. Following his new position as president-elect, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, another member of the Bennett-led Jewish Home party, has called on Trump to follow through with these promises.
More than 230 settlements housing more than half a million Israelis have been built since Israel began its occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds almost 50 years ago. Though most of this settlements are internationally regarded as illegal, they have continued anyway, sparking tensions and violence between the Israeli and the Palestinians. Since August 2015, things have taken a turn for the worse ever since the Tel Aviv-based Israeli government imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into Jerusalem’s most important mosque, al-Aqsa. Unrest led to the death of 250 Palestinian by Israeli forces. Israel has also launched attacks against the Palestinians in Gaza since 2007, launching its latest war in July 2014. The military offensive, which ended in August of that year, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children.
This state violence of Israel against Palestine has largely been enabled by US foreign policy as well as the US’ “special relationship” with the 68-year-old nation, including exclusive weapon deals and millions in US foreign aid. It remains to be seen if Trump will stick to his maverick-type behavior that got him elected or if he will follow in the footsteps of previous presidents, acquiescing to the demands of Israeli politicians like Naftali Bennett.
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