While Donald Trump has barricaded himself in the White House, refusing to concede the election and leading President-elect Joe Biden to call for donations to fund the transition, members of the president’s inner circle seem to have accepted reality.
They are largely focused on trying to go as far as possible with their ideological pet projects during their final weeks in power.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s grotesque farewell party in Israel last week exemplified this approach. The visit, on which he was accompanied by his wife Susan, was defined as partly private in order not to run afoul of whatever remains of State Department protocol. It’s one of the oldest exercises in the diplomatic textbook; to try to distinguish between the “private” and the “official” on such a visit is impossible, particularly in light of his constant companions, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and an enormous entourage of Israeli security forces.
The visit included tours of the City of David in Jerusalem and the Jordan River baptism site of Qasr el-Yahud; a stop at an outpost in the Golan Heights with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi; dinner at the new visitors’ center of the settler-owned Psagot Winery, in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone in the West Bank; and a visit to the Friends of Zion Museum in central Jerusalem, founded by an evangelical adviser to Trump to honor Christian Zionists. Most of these sites symbolize the unholy alliance between evangelical Christians in the United States and Israel’s settler right, which has grown much stronger during Trump’s presidency.
On his journey among these stations, Pompeo, an evangelical Christian with his own political aspirations, announced several last-minute gifts to the Israeli right: State Department decisions to regard the BDS movement as antisemitic and to allow goods produced in Israeli settlements in Area C of the West Bank – areas that according to the Oslo Accords are under full Israeli control – be marked as made in Israel when imported into the United States.
Both decisions – and it’s hard to say whether they will remain in effect under the Biden administration, which could render them meaningless – amounted to a full adoption of the Netanyahu government’s policy of regarding anyone who criticizes it politically as in effect antisemitic and regarding the settlements as integral parts of Israeli territory. It’s no coincidence that both those decisions were announced at the same time.
The Netanyahu government and the settlers have been working for years to blur the boundaries between Israel and the settlements. One important tactic is to argue that a boycott of settlement goods is tantamount to a boycott of Israel and is thus an attempt to delegitimize the state and is therefore antisemitic.
This argument was advanced by the Strategic Affairs Ministry under Gilad Erdan, currently Israel’s ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations.
This leap of logic, which isn’t logical in the least, aims to eliminate all distinctions between Israel and the settlements and to undermine any form of legitimate boycott by consumers around the world of settlement products as an expression of political protest. It’s a practice supported by many in Israel, and no, for the information of the prolific tweeter Yair Netanyahu, it very much does not make them “antisemites.”
Unless sufficient pressure is placed on the Biden administration to change them, they may remain in place, and there will be no way for consumers to distinguish Israeli products from settlement products. In that regard Israel is shooting itself in the foot.
The last-minute and costly measures do not end there. As voter polls predicted a Biden victory before the election, the Trump administration rushed to sign additional agreements, such as one to allow scientific cooperation with the University of Ariel, located in the West Bank settlement of the same name.
Only Jonathan Pollard was missing from Netanyahu’s holiday wish list, and he got that item as well Friday, when the U.S. Justice Department decided not to extend parole restrictions for the Jewish American spy. As a result, Pollard will presumably immigrate to Israel soon.
The goodbye party isn’t over yet. There will be additional rushed moves, aimed at forcing the Biden administration’s hand, up until the last moment of Trump’s stay in the White House.
Header: Israeli winemaker Yaakov Berg holds a bottle of his red blend named after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Psagot Wineryת near the Israeli Psagot settlement, November 18, 2020.Credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND – AFP
Original: HAARETZ – Noa Landau