phyllis-al-jazeera

The Israeli government announced the creation of more than 3,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Trump is shifting the U.S.’ relationship with Israel from one of quiet diplomatic criticism of settlements while maintaining enormous financial, and military support, to one that boldly and publicly embraces settlement building and apartheid, IPS Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis told Al Jazeera.

“The Israeli government is looking to Trump to end the ongoing criticism of settlement construction that President Obama had raised,” Bennis said, while noting that Obama’s criticism did not change the U.S. continuing to provide billions in military aid and protection of Israel from accountability in the United Nations.

Bennis commented that while it is unclear what policy changes the Trump administration will actually implement in regard to the U.S.’ relationship with Israel – like moving the U.S embassy to Jerusalem as key Trump advisers suggested – we do know that Trump’s cabinet appointments support new settlements, including the nominee for ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Trump’s son-in-law and potential special Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner.

“We know that the era of criticizing settlement building from the United States appears to be over, and that’s going to empower the most vicious settlement construction going on in Israel,” Bennis said. “It’s going to empower those to Netanyahu’s right who want to build more settlements, annex more territory, and abandon the idea of a two state solution.”

The European Union and United Nations both condemned the announced new settlements, but Bennis argued that the international community could do more, including “what civil society has been doing for 12 years now, which is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.”

Bennis said the EU has made some efforts to separate goods produced in 1967 Israel from goods produced in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, but they could implement them in a more serious way and other countries could boycott Israel as well. Avoiding giving those kinds of tax benefits to Israel as long as they maintain this occupation is something they can do that doesn’t require unanimity in the Security Council.

Another ramification that the U.S. might face if it moves publicly against the international tide of settler condemnation is that it becomes more isolated from its long standing allies as well as others around the world, Bennis said.

“The U.S. becomes the outlier, it becomes the rouge state who is enabling these consistent violations of international law, consistent war crimes,” Bennis argued. “It’s not new and different for the U.S. to do that, but it is different for the U.S. government to brag about it.”

Phyllis Bennis is the director of the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.