USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munayyer appears on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman

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AMY GOODMAN: How unusual is what happened Friday, the passage of this resolution critical of Israel?

YOUSEF MUNAYYER: Well, it’s good to be with you. It’s not exactly unusual. We have seen tremendous agreement in the international community on the illegality of the Israeli settlement enterprise. And there is a lot of international agreement, of course, that the Fourth Geneva Conventions apply to the territory that Israel occupied after 1967, which make the transfer of civilians into occupied territory illegal under international law. We have seen that fact affirmed in United Nations Security Council resolutions for years since 1967, under various American administrations that either voted for similar resolutions or abstained on similar resolutions. The only President since 1967 who prior to this week had not done something like that was actually Barack Obama.

GOODMAN: So when we say “In the last eight years”, that’s true, because that was Barack Obama’s two terms.

MUNAYYER: Exactly. The only veto that President Obama had ever used in the United Nations Security Council was used to protect Israel from a resolution that was criticizing its settlement enterprise. So I think any objective comparative analysis of US presidents since 1967 has to conclude that there has been no president that’s done more to protect Israel before the international community than Barack Obama. When you consider the fact that Ronald Reagan allowed 21 different United Nations Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, including criticizing the bombings of Beirut and the siege of Beirut throughout the 1980s, and Barack Obama had various opportunities during the siege of Gaza and the bombardments of Gaza that took place under his watch to do so and didn’t, these accusations against President Obama really being uniquely anti-Israel really raise questions about whether those accusations are not about something else that is unique about President Obama…

GOODMAN: So in fact Netanyahu is singling out Barack Obama and making it personal.

MUNAYYER: Absolutely, what you’re seeing right now, and the reason why Samantha Power and the administration have felt the need to defend themselves by citing Ronald Reagan even though this has been longstanding US policy, is because they’re being attacked by the right in an attempt right now, and we’re seeing Netanyahu do this in very hysterical fashion since the passing of this resolution, to intimidate any future American elected officials from even deviating the slightest bit from the every whim and demand of Israel’s right-wing government. And I think that is what you’re seeing take place today, not simply because they have an issue with the Obama administration, but because they have any issue with US policy, and they don’t want to see the United States ever supporting the idea that there should be pressure on Israel for its illegal settlements…

GOODMAN: Now there is talk of defunding the United Nations, and what does the US pay? Something like more than a fifth

MUNAYYER: A very large portion of the United Nations budget comes from the United States. Look, there is, as I said, an effort right now to really intimidate politicians in the United States from ever deviating from the Benjamin Netanyahu line. The issue of settlements, this is not controversial. There’s an effort now to make this controversial, even though it’s very clear in international law and agreed on in the international community by everyone except for the Israeli right-wing that settlements are illegal under international law and are an obstacle to the vision of an independent, contiguous Palestinian state, which is the stated policy of all of these governments. So there’s a lot of theater going on now. But I think the important thing about all of this resolution and so on is not so much the language about settlements, as much as the language about salvaging the two-state solution. The desperation that’s expressed in this text about the two-state solution dying. When you read that, and you consider that the incoming administration, the Trump administration, takes a completely different view, takes the Benjamin Netanyahu view, opposes the idea of a Palestinian state, has appointed an ambassador to Israel that opposes the idea of a Palestinian state, supports settlements literally. As in he’s dedicated his life’s work to funneling money to Israeli settlements through raising charitable contributions in the United States.

GOODMAN: Like Beit-El

MUNAYYER: Like Beit-El, precisely. So, you have an ambassador now to Israel that is incapable of delivering the message that settlements are an obstacle because he himself has helped create those obstacles…

GOODMAN: So that’s the bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, and normally people wouldn’t care so much what a bankruptcy lawyer had to say on this issue except that Donald Trump has tapped his bankruptcy lawyer to be the US ambassador to Israel. Yousef Munayyer, the significance of both this, and that move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and then also this latest news of the hundreds of homes that will be built in Jerusalem.

MUNAYYER: Right, there’s something particularly fitting about putting a bankruptcy lawyer in charge of US-Middle East policy isn’t there? It’s very clear from Donald Trump’s statements, from Donald Trump’s behavior, from the Donald Trump campaign’s effort to change the GOP platform to include the most anti-Palestinian language that we’ve ever seen in a national party platform. This is an administration that is going to wholeheartedly embrace Israeli apartheid. They are going to give a green light to Israeli settlement expansion. They’re going to, as the appointee for ambassador stated, move the embassy to Jerusalem.

GOODMAN: What would happen if they did that, by the way?

MUNAYYER: We’ll find out. But I think there’s two things that are important to think about, in terms of implications. There’s the reaction from the Arab and Muslim world. There’s reason to think that there’s going to be varied reactions in the Arab and Muslim world to that sort of move. But there’s also the very clear message that that sends about US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Jerusalem has always been treated as a separate entity, a separate issue by US policy, and US policy since 1947 really has been that Jerusalem has a separate status, a unique status, that has to be resolved through negotiations by Israelis and Palestinians. That’s why there’s not even an American embassy in West Jerusalem, let alone East Jerusalem. So if you have the move of an embassy to Jerusalem, what you are essentially saying is that bipartisan American policy for decades towards the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has just been thrown out the window. And I think the two-state solution, frankly, has long been dead. They’ve never had a ceremony to bury it. I think that if you did move the embassy to Jerusalem, they can have that ceremony when they lay the cornerstone for the embassy in Jerusalem…

GOODMAN: The suggestion that the US initiated this [resolution]?

MUNAYYER: So what? What’s the big deal if the United States actually, for once, decides to act in a way that follows through with what’s been its stated policy for decades. I don’t see anything particularly controversial about this. And the fact that the Israelis are trying to make it so, in this hyper-partisan way…

GOODMAN: The US adamantly denies it.

MUNAYYER: Well, the US adamantly denies it, and they’re doing that because of the way in which this has become a third rail issue. Even the slightest bit of criticism of Israeli policy has become a third rail issue in American domestic politics. The last thing I would say about this is if the Israelis want to attach themselves here in the United States, not just to the Republican Party, which has been happening for a number of years, but to the Donald Trump wing of the Republican Party, that may be helpful for a couple of years, but in the long term, I think it’s gonna send a very clear message to the American people that this notion of shared values between Israel and the United States being quite bogus, and being something that most Americans who believe in values that are not embodied by Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu will ultimately reject.