Although US President Donald Trump’s behavior has often been unconventional (to put it mildly), receiving well-deserved criticism, his declaration on Jerusalem was a model of diplomacy. He did everything by the book, he called Arab leaders to inform them in advance of what was coming, and he exceeded any expectations that one might have had from much more “presidential” presidents.
In his official declaration, Trump said many things that Palestinians should have liked. He said that “Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place […] where Muslims worship at al-Aqsa Mosque.”
He said, “We want an agreement that is […] a great deal for the Palestinians.”
He assured, “We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
He could have been mistaken for Barack Obama when he said, “Above all, our greatest hope is for peace, the universal yearning in every human soul. […] Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach. […] We call for calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate. Our children should inherit our love, not our conflicts. […] Let us rededicate ourselves to a path of mutual understanding and respect.”
He said, “God bless the Palestinians”, which surely made the “Palestinians don’t exist” crowd cringe.
He even reaffirmed that “The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides.” Some critics took exception to the addition of the self-evident “if agreed to by both sides”, thus proving that they could not find anything substantial in the speech to criticize.
But all that the Palestinians and most leaders around the world seem to have heard is, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”.
Jerusalem has in fact been Israel’s capital since 1948 when Israel declared its independence, which means that Trump’s declaration changes nothing. Foreign diplomats know this very well since they have to keep traveling from Tel Aviv, where their embassies are located, to meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem. Palestinians know it, and Israeli Arabs who are members or employees of the Knesset certainly know it since they must show up for work at Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem.
The Hill reported, “Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer advised President Trump to declare Jerusalem the “undivided” capital of Israel”. If Trump had followed the senior Democratic senator’s advice, his declaration would have been significant and game-changing, but Trump did no such thing.
Trump changed nothing. Absolutely nothing. If that was not clear enough from Trump’s speech, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, clarified, “We didn’t say anything about any part of Jerusalem. That’s for the two sides to decide. That’s not for the United States to decide.”
Trump said that the U.S. embassy would move to Jerusalem, but in light of his speech and Haley’s clarification, it is obvious that it would be moved to the Western part of Jerusalem, well within the green line. It is inconceivable that any peace deal would not give West Jerusalem to Israel, so even the embassy move, which will not happen for years, will change nothing.
Yet Trump’s announcement brought anger and violence in the Middle East and condemnation from all over the world. Palestinian Authority-owned newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah called it the “slap of the century”. Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas called it an “unacceptable crime” and warned of “wars without end”.
Why? It is simple. Trump challenged the Arabs’ and the Muslims’ blackmail of the world over Jerusalem.
Their blackmail is that the world must accept the lie that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jews, or else. It is a juvenile game meant to appease Arab and Muslim antisemitism, nothing else.
Until December 6, 2017, the world played along, passing ludicrous resolution after ludicrous resolution claiming that Jerusalem belongs to everyone under the sun except the Jews.
Trump, despite his faults or perhaps because of his faults, refused to play along.
Trump has in fact only recognized reality, a reality that Palestinians have become very adept at denying, with the world’s complicity.
What Trump did was right, it was bold, it was just, and it should have been done long ago, in 1950 in fact, right after the Knesset declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
No one would even think of telling another country what its capital is, and it should be no different with the Jewish state.
Trump exposed a lie. He did it with skill, he did it carefully, and he did it diplomatically, but he did it.
The lie – the abscess – that has been growing for 69 years has finally started being purged. Donald Trump should be praised for this, regardless of what else we may think of his presidency. And the rest of the world should shut up with their misplaced anti-Trump rhetoric and should humbly follow suit.